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TITLE: MONGOLIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993 DATE: JANUARY 31, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE MONGOLIA In January 1992, the legislature approved a new Constitution which codified Mongolia's transition from a highly centralized Communist state to a multiparty democracy. The new Constitution established Mongolia as a sovereign republic, provided a broad range of rights and freedoms, retained the offices of President and Prime Minister, and restructured the legislative branch of government into a unicameral State Great Hural (SGH) of 76 members. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are nominated by the President and approved by the SGH. Continuing the positive trend of the previous 3 years, Mongolia in 1993 took further steps to consolidate its fledgling democracy and to enhance the protection of human rights. In the preliminaries to the June 1993 presidential election, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) withdrew its support for then incumbent President Ochirbat and supported the candidacy of MPRP newspaper editor Tudev. The Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), along with other opposition parties, formed a coalition to support Ochirbat's candidacy. This first-ever democratic presidential election in Mongolia's history, held on June 6, 1993, was monitored by international observers, who judged it open and fairly contested. Ochirbat won with 57.8 percent of the popular vote; some 92.7 percent of eligible voters participated in the election. The state security apparatus--now a department responsible to the Cabinet--continues to redefine its role in Mongolia's post-Communist society. A State Security Law enacted in 1992 establishes SGH control and supervision of the Department of State Security (DSS) and its budget, presidential control of policy, and government oversight of daily activities, with the State Procurator also overseeing the legal aspects of security operations. However, the new law also provides the Department a special right to conduct surveillance in order to carry out its duties and establishes the presence of security representatives in all public enterprises. There have been some reports of police using excess force in dealing with those suspected or accused of criminal activity. Despite increasing industrialization and urbanization, a large portion of the population is engaged in agriculture, with an emphasis on livestock raising and associated light industry. After decades of nearly total dependency on the former Soviet Union, Mongolia is increasing its foreign trade with other countries and making the difficult transition to a market economy. The new Constitution lays the legal groundwork for this transition by establishing the right to private ownership of property and to conduct private commercial activity. However, these efforts have been handicapped by a severe foreign exchange shortage and a general economic slowdown. The new Constitution establishes the basis for continued significant progress in most human rights categories. It forbids discrimination of any sort and clearly establishes freedom of speech and press, assembly, and the right of citizens to change their government. This year the SGH considered several laws concerning basic rights enumerated in the Constitution, including emigration, labor relations, and religion. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing There has been no evidence of such killings in recent years. b. Disappearance There were no known instances of politically motivated abductions or disappearances in recent years. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment According to the new Constitution, "no person shall be subjected to torture, inhuman, cruel, or degrading treatment." There have been no reports that torture or other such treatment or punishment has been practiced in the recent past. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile There were no confirmed reports of arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile. Under the new Constitution, no person shall be searched, arrested, detained, or deprived of liberty except by law. A person arrested for committing a crime, his family, and his legal counsel are to be notified of the reasons for the arrest within a period of time established by law. A number of new procedural laws have been passed, but Mongolia's Legal Code has not been completely revised. Until that revision is complete, the existing Legal Code remains in force. That Code permits police to arrest those in the act of committing a crime and hold them for up to 72 hours without a warrant. For incarcerations of longer duration, or when the actual crime was not witnessed, a warrant must be issued by a prosecutor. Prosecutors are appointed by the State Prosecutor for a 5-year term. The State Prosecutor was appointed by the former (pre-SGH) Great People's Hural for a 5-year term. Under the existing Legal Code, a person in detention has no statutory right to see an attorney, and defense attorneys have been routinely denied access to their clients prior to trial. The new Constitution, however, provides for the right to legal assistance upon request but does not provide for free legal counsel for the indigent. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The new Constitution provides the right to a fair trial, legal assistance, appeal of a court judgment, and request for pardon. The new Constitution also provides for a number of structural changes in the court system that have not yet been implemented. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial body, while the Constitutional Court has sole authority to interpret the Constitution. While the Supreme and Constitutional Courts are now functioning, further restructuring of the court system must await enactment of implementing legislation by the SGH. In the interim, the existing three-level court system remains in operation. The local (or "people's") courts handle most routine criminal and civil cases such as assault, petty larceny, traffic accidents, and liability disputes. Provincial courts hear serious cases such as murder, rape, grand larceny, official corruption, and security cases. Provincial courts also review local court decisions. The Supreme Court serves as an appeals court for the people's and provincial courts. To date the Supreme Court has rarely overturned the verdicts of the lower courts. Supreme Court judges were appointed by the former Great People's Hural for 4-year terms. Lower court judges were appointed by provincial hurals, also for 4-year terms. Current civil and criminal codes provide for the right of the accused to judicial process, a legal defense, and public trial "except as stipulated by law." Closed proceedings are permitted in cases involving crimes against the State, rape cases involving minors, and particularly brutal murders. Witnesses are usually required to appear at trials, but written testimony is sometimes accepted instead. The accused must answer all questions put to him by the prosecutor. Under the provisions of a 1993 law on the judicial system, the formerly separate military justice and railway court systems have been abolished. All legal actions are now considered by a single unified national court system. In the past the courts have been nominally independent, but in reality were closely controlled by the MPRP. Since the 1990 revolution, there has been a comprehensive review of the Legal Code and the structure of the judiciary in order to establish a legal system which will conform to international standards. The new Constitution stipulates that the judiciary will be independent and strictly guided by law; it remains to be seen how this stipulation will be implemented. There are no political prisoners. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The right to privacy of Mongolian citizens, their families, correspondence, and homes is provided for in the new Constitution. Despite political reforms and reductions in the apparatus of government, however, the Government, under old regulations still in force, retains the authority to exercise control over individual activity. Warrants must be issued by a prosecutor before persons or premises may be searched. According to the 1992 State Security Law, the DSS, despite internal reforms, still reserves the right to use special surveillance methods (e.g., wiretaps) in order "to carry out its duties." No information is available on the extent of these practices, but the authority of the DSS seems significantly less than what it was before the 1990 democratic revolution. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press Freedom of speech, press, and "expression of opinion" is provided for in the new Constitution and is now widely respected in practice, although some limits remain. Lively debate covering a broad range of political, economic, and social topics continued in 1993. Newspapers are able to publish and circulate freely. However, except for those newspapers which were able to import newsprint directly or obtain it as a gift, newsprint shortages prevented most newspapers from appearing regularly. The Government controls the allocation of newsprint imported through official trade, and opposition parties and other publishers continued to allege that limitations on the quantities of newsprint effectively prevented them from publishing as frequently as the MPRP newspaper, Unen. A new "independent" but government-financed television company was formed in mid-1992 and now broadcasts 30 hours of programming a week. Government-owned Mongolian radio and television remain the only national broadcast systems. Although both the opposition and the Government at times have criticized Mongolian television's coverage, it regularly broadcasts the views of opposition parties as well as those of the Government, and its news programs are generally considered balanced. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The new Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly. Demonstrations--including hunger strikes--over various issues, mainly protesting government economic policies, were held throughout 1993 without interference by the authorities. Although permits are required for demonstrations, this requirement is not enforced. The new Constitution also grants the right to form a political party or other public organizations and to unite voluntarily in associations according to social interests or convictions. c. Freedom of Religion The new Constitution provides for the right both to "worship and nonworship;" there is no state religion. The Constitution explicitly provides for the separation of church and state. Freedom of religion is respected in practice. On December 10, a new law on religious activity went into force. This law placed limits on religious expression and explicitly favored Buddhism, Islam, and shamanism. However, on January 12, 1994, the Constitutional Court declared those provisions of the law unconstitutional. Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians all practice their faiths without government interference. The Association of Mongolian Religious People, formed in 1990, continued to function freely. The Government has not interfered with the activities of Christian and other missionaries, and proselytizing is permitted. However, a Ministry of Education announcement stipulates that, because the new Constitution requires that education be kept separate from religion, foreign language teaching must not be used as a means of conducting missionary activity. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation The new Constitution provides Mongolians the right to move freely within the country, choose their residence, travel and reside abroad, and return to Mongolia. The right to travel abroad may, however, be limited by law in order to ensure national security and protect public order. At least some Mongolians are required to surrender their passports upon completion of foreign travel and must request their return for further use. Mongolia does not receive many refugees, but a few who have come from China's province of Inner Mongolia have been accepted for resettlement. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government The 1992 Constitution provides citizens the right to change their government through periodic, free elections with universal suffrage. President Ochirbat, supported by a coalition of opposition parties, won a second term in June in Mongolia's first open presidential election. The Constitution establishes the unicameral State Great Hural (SGH) as the supreme organ of government. Its 76 members are elected by direct, secret ballot for 4-year terms. The SGH has the right to set the date of SGH and presidential elections and can remove the President. The President of Mongolia serves as Head of State and is elected to a 4-year term (with a limit of two terms) by national secret ballot. The Government has a 4-year mandate and is nominated by the party that wins a majority in the SGH. The SGH, in consultation with the President, will continue to elect the Prime Minister and approve his Cabinet. There are no legal impediments to the participation of women in government and politics. According to the new Constitution, "men and women shall be equal in political and economic fields...." In 1991 women constituted about 30 percent of the MPRP membership. Three women were elected to the SGH in June 1992. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights A local human rights group, the Mongolian Human Rights Committee, was formed in 1990. There are no known impediments to its ability to monitor and report on human rights developments. The Government has cooperated with international nongovernmental human rights organizations. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status The new Constitution provides that "...no person shall be discriminated against on the basis of ethnic origin, language, race, age, sex, social origin, or status..." and that "...men and women shall be equal in political, economic, social, cultural fields, and family affairs." There appears to be little discrimination in education on the basis of race, sex, or religion. Women According to government statistics, the percentage of women in the work force was 51.3 percent in 1992. Women formed about half of trade union membership and also hold high professional positions in such institutions as the courts, schools, research centers, and hospitals. By law and in practice, women receive equal pay for equal work. Women are, however, virtually absent from the highest ranks of government and the professions. There is little historical information about the extent of domestic violence, including spousal and child abuse. Only recently has the issue surfaced in the media; many believe that the incidence of such violence is growing as more and more families are confronted by economic and social dislocations, including unemployment and alcohol. Children The Government believes that the growing number of orphaned and abandoned children is becoming a serious national problem that requires additional government action. Mongolia's National Children's Center has been relocated in the Ministry of Social Welfare and Labor, which is helping to prepare new legislation on child protection. A few group shelters have been established for abandoned and street children. People with Disabilities People with disabilities have formed several groups to represent their interests. Under present law, government benefits vary according to the degree of disability. Those who have been disabled in industrial accidents have the right to be reemployed when ready to resume work. The Government also provides tax benefits to enterprises which employ the disabled and some firms do so exclusively. No legislation mandates access for the handicapped. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The right of association for professional associations and trade unions is provided for in the new Constitution. The charter of the Mongolian Trade Unions Confederation (MTUC) provides for the unionization of police and military personnel. Although at present neither group belongs to the federation, their affiliation is under consideration. The MTUC represents some 400,000 Mongolian workers. Union officials are elected by secret ballot. There are no arbitrary restrictions on who may be a union official. Union members, other than civil servants and essential service workers, have the right to strike, and several strikes took place during the year. Essential services employees are those critical for national defense and safety, including the police, employees of power plants, water works, public transportation, and public communications, and certain railway employees. Most unions in Mongolia are currently affiliated with the MTUC, which formerly was a part of the MPRP. The MTUC separated from the party during the 1990 revolution, and its charter now states that all unions have the right to leave it should they so desire. The MTUC also maintains there is no requirement for new unions to register with it or with any government body. The MTUC is apparently no longer an instrument of government control. According to the Constitution, no political parties can be directly represented in the workplace. During 1990 a new union movement called "The Association of Free Trade Unions" (AFTU) emerged. It includes some 70 unions. In 1992 another new union organization, called "Blue Mongolia," came into existence with approximately 40,000 members. Although the AFTU still functions, Blue Mongolia no longer appears to be active. The new Constitution places no restrictions on the political activity of unions or union officials. There is no statutory prohibition against unions forming federations or joining international bodies. Mongolian unions, formerly affiliated exclusively with international Communist organizations, are broadening their contacts with Western labor movements. The MTUC in 1993 sent representatives to various International Labor Organization, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and specialized federation meetings in Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Israel, and Taiwan. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively Although amendments to the existing Labor Law passed in early 1993 provide for collective bargaining, there are so far no known instances of such agreements. Wage setting is an issue still in flux. According to the MTUC, wages and other work-related issues are supposed to be decided in tripartite contract negotiations between the enterprises, the Government, and unions. The Government's role is to be limited to making sure that the contract meets legal requirements, e.g., hours of work and safety conditions. In practice, wages usually set by the employer alone, whether that employer is a private enterprise or the Government itself. Virtually all enterprises have been privatized, including manufactured and service industries. The Government, however, in addition to employing its own ministry officials and teachers, also owns the communications systems, mines, airlines, and other organizations. Where the Government acts as employer, it sets the wages, although the MTUC member unions are trying to carve out a role in it for themselves, e.g, as when the teachers in late 1992 struck for higher wages. However, the unions have not yet established a formal role. The Labor Law prohibits antiunion discrimination. According to the law, an employer must show work-related cause and must obtain the union's approval to fire a union official who is an employee. The courts have the right to order reinstatement. In practice, in the several known instances of union officials who were faced with dismissal, the matter was resolved and the official continued working without resort to court intervention. Export processing zones do not exist in Mongolia. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor Forced or compulsory labor is specifically prohibited by law. However, students are frequently mobilized to help farmers harvest their crops. In 1993 about 9,000 of the 30,000 university students participated in the harvest, while the others paid a fine equivalent to about $5 to avoid such labor. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The law prohibits children under the age of 16 from working, with the exception of those aged 14 and 15 if allowed by the local trade union committee and given permission by their parents. Those under 18 are statutorily prohibited from working at night, from doing arduous work, or from working in dangerous areas such as mining or construction. Enforcement of these prohibitions, as well as all other labor regulations, is the responsibility of state labor inspectors assigned to regional and local offices. These inspectors visit workplaces and have the authority to order and, reportedly, compel immediate compliance with labor regulations. Prior to 1991 child employment was banned by the Constitution, and no statistics were kept on such employment. However, in 1991 the Government created the National Commission for Children. The Commission, under the Ministry of Labor, is responsible for verifying the extent and condition of child labor. As a first step, the Commission requested basic information from Mongolian firms, and its staff also visited businesses to obtain data. At the end of the year, firms had still not responded to the Commission's 1992 request for data on child labor. No alternate source of data on child labor appears to exist. In the rural areas, there appears to have been a noticeable drop in school attendance by school-age children. Part of this drop is undoubtedly due to problems faced by rural schools (primarily lack of heat), but part is due to some children having been withdrawn to work in the newly privatized herds. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work The government-established minimum wage applies to all workers. The minimum wage was raised in June 1993 to $0.03 per hour (approximately 11 tugriks at December 1993 exchange rates) and again in December 1993 to around $0.065 (25.74 tugriks). Few workers, however, make only the minimum wage; most salaried positions pay three or four times that rate. The minimum wage has not been indexed to reflect the serious inflation of the past 3 years. While it is difficult to determine what portion of the work force is paid at the minimum wage, this wage, together with subsidies provided workers, appears to provide an adequate standard of living, although that is endangered by continuing inflation. The Labor Law sets 46 hours as the standard workweek, and establishes a minimum rest period of 42 hours between workweeks. For those under 18 the standard workweek is 36 hours: overtime is forbidden by law, except in case of national emergency or natural disaster, such as an earthquake or floods, and then only with the concurrence of the local labor union. Both government and organized labor recognize the importance of worker health and safety issues, but no specific laws on these topics have yet been presented to the SGH. At present, the Labor Law, the Cooperatives Law, and the Enterprise Law provide occupational safety and health standards, and the Ministry of Labor sets additional standards. These standards are enforced by the Government with the help of the trade unions; violators may be fined and imprisoned. There were no reported incidences of such punishments levied in 1993. According to the Labor Code, workers do have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations and still retain their jobs. The Labor Inspector Force (37 investigators) has taken action, even to close factories if the building involved does not meet minimal health and safety regulations. Nonetheless, given Mongolia's near total reliance on outmoded machinery and continuing problems with spare parts and maintenance, accidents are frequent. In the past year, over 300 workers were reportedly killed in industrial accidents.
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