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

                      TONGA


The Kingdom of Tonga comprises 169 islands scattered over an 
area of 360,000 square kilometers of the South Pacific.  All 
but a handful of the approximately 104,000 inhabitants are 
Polynesian.  Tonga is a constitutional monarchy in which 
political life is dominated by the King, the nobility, and a 
few prominent commoners.  Formerly a British protected state, 
Tonga is fully independent and a member of the Commonwealth of 
Nations.

The security apparatus is composed of the Tonga Defense 
Services (TDS) and a police force.  The 350-man TDS force is 
responsible to and controlled by the Minister of Defense.  

Tonga's economy is based primarily on the cultivation of 
tropical and semitropical crops.  An increasing demand for 
imported manufactured goods and products unavailable locally 
has led to a substantial trade deficit.  This has largely been 
offset by remittances from Tongans employed abroad, overseas 
aid, and, to a lesser degree, tourism.  Continuing world 
recessionary conditions in 1993 resulted in an abnormally low 
level of remittances.

The principal human rights abuses remain severe restrictions 
on the right of citizens to change their government and 
discrimination against women.  The Constitution, dating from 
1875, has been increasingly challenged by commoners who are 
disadvantaged by it, most dramatically by the November 1992 
Prodemocracy Convention held in the capital and the results of 
the February elections.  

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

No such killings occurred.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no disappearances and no evidence of people being 
abducted, secretly arrested, or clandestinely detained.


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

Torture and inhuman or degrading punishment or other such 
treatment are forbidden by the Constitution, and there were no 
reported instances of such practices.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The right to judicial determination of the legality of arrest 
is enshrined in the Constitution and observed in practice.  
There is no exile, internal or external, and no preventive 
detention, although there are no statutory limits to the 
length of time a suspect may be held prior to being charged.  
There are no statutory limits to access by counsel and family 
members to such a detained person.  

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is independent of the King and the executive 
branch.  The Court of Appeal, as the appellate court of last 
resort, is the highest court.  Two cases have involved 
Pro-Democracy leader Akilisi Pohiva who was charged with 
publishing secret government documents (a not guilty verdict 
was returned) and later charged with defamation, resulting in 
a guilty verdict and a fine of one Tongan dollar--less than a 
U.S. dollar.  The King's Privy Council presides over cases 
relating to disputes over titles of nobility and estate 
boundaries.  The King has the right to commute a death 
sentence in cases of murder or treason.  In addition, Tonga's 
court system consists of the Supreme Court (which has original 
jurisdiction over all major cases), the police magistrate's 
courts, a general court, a court martial for the Tongan 
Defense Services, a court tribunal for the police force, and a 
court of review for the Inland Revenue Department.

The right to a fair public trial is provided for by law and 
honored in practice.  No one may be summoned before any court 
without first having received a written indictment clearly 
stating the offense with which that person is charged.  
Defendants are entitled to counsel, and lawyers have free 
access to defendants.  There are no political prisoners.


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

By law and practice no one may enter or search the home of 
another or remove any item of property unless in possession of 
a warrant issued by a magistrate.  There is no arbitrary 
intrusion by the state or political organizations into a 
person's private life.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and press is provided for in the 
Constitution.  Tonga has five newspapers (one of which is 
government owned) and one national magazine.  The only radio 
station is government owned.  While there is generally little 
editorializing in the government-owned media, opposition 
opinion appears regularly alongside government statements and 
letters.  A privately owned newspaper, Kele'a, openly 
criticizes the Government without government interference.  
The Catholic monthly, Taumu'a Lelei, also speaks out freely.  
The Minister of Police has threatened action against the 
independent media in one or two cases, but no action has ever 
been taken.  Serious infringement has occurred, usually tied 
to a specific event such as the November 1992 Pro-Democracy 
Convention.  No such actions were taken in 1993.  The February 
1993 election campaign took place with no restrictions on 
freedom of speech or press.  All participants took full 
advantage of their rights and access to the media.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Peaceful assembly and association are provided for by law.  
There are no significant restrictions.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is provided for in the Constitution and 
observed in practice.  Missionaries may proselytize freely.

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

Tongan citizens are free to travel anywhere within the Kingdom 
and abroad.  There are no restrictions on repatriation.  There 
are no displaced persons in Tonga.


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

Citizens do not have the ability to change their leaders or 
the system of government.  The King and a small group of 
hereditary nobles dominate political life in Tonga.  They 
assert authority largely through their control of substantial 
land holdings and their predominant role in the Legislative 
Assembly.  The Constitution allows the monarch broad powers, 
many of which do not require the endorsement of the 
legislative branch.  The King appoints and presides over the 
Privy Council, which makes major policy decisions.  (When the 
King is not presiding, the Privy Council is called the 
Cabinet.)  The King also selects the Prime Minister and other 
Cabinet ministers, who hold office at his pleasure.

Tonga's unicameral legislature, the Legislative Assembly, 
consists of 12 Cabinet ministers, 9 nobles elected by their 
peers, and 9 people's representatives.  All literate Tongans, 
21 years of age or older, are eligible to vote.  The Speaker 
is appointed by the King from among the representatives of the 
nobles.  Government ministers generally vote with the nobles' 
representatives as a bloc.  People's representatives sometimes 
vote against the Government.  There are no political parties.  
Elections are held every 3 years, most recently in February 
1993.  As a result of those elections, the Pro-Democracy 
Movement extended its influence with the election of strong 
supporters to six of the nine people's representative seats.

Since 1991 there have been continued calls for more democratic 
change both by people inside and outside of the government 
establishment.  The Pro-Democracy Movement, which originated 
in 1986, was formally established in 1992 but does not 
consider itself to be a political party.  This organization 
maintains that the monarchy is an inalienable part of the 
Tonga identity, but it believes that the Government must 
become much more relevant to today's world and that this can 
be achieved only through greater power sharing by the King and 
greater accountability on the part of the Government (one of 
its earliest efforts was to inspect the financial records of 
the legislature).

The February 1993 elections were seen by many as a referendum 
for change, with those favoring reform the clear winners.  
Following its election victory, the Prodemocracy Movement has 
turned to educational efforts outside the capital and to 
drafting proposals for revisions to the 1875 Constitution, 
most notably for popular election of all 30 members of the 
Assembly and election of the House Speaker from among Assembly 
members.

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

While there are no known barriers to the formation of local 
nongovernmental organizations that concern themselves with 
human rights, no such organizations exist in Tonga.  No 
outside organizations have made requests to investigate human 
rights violations.  Tonga is not a member of the United 
Nations.

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

Social, cultural, and economic facilities are available to all 
citizens regardless of race or religion.  However, members of 
the hereditary nobility have substantial advantages in Tongan 
society.  These include control over most of the land and a 
generally privileged status.  Nonetheless, it is possible for 
commoners to rise to Cabinet positions in government and to 
accumulate great wealth and status in the private sector.

     Women

In Tonga's male dominated society, women generally occupy a 
subordinate role.  While the strong Polynesian cultural 
tradition has discouraged the rise of women to positions of 
leadership, some have become members of the legislature and 
served in responsible positions in various occupations.

Domestic violence is infrequent.  As a result, the country 
does not have a women's crisis center.  Incidents of wife 
beating that do occur are generally dealt with in traditional 
ways between the families and village elders; abused wives 
sometimes return to their families if mediation fails.

     Children

Child abuse, if it occurs, is rare and has not become a source 
of societal concern.  The Government is committed to 
children's human rights and welfare and provides commensurate 
funding for children's welfare within the context of the total 
resources available to the State.  


     People with Disabilities

No mandated provisions for accessibility for the disabled 
erxist.  There were no known complaints of discrimination in 
employment, education, or provision of other state services.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the right to form unions under the 1964 Trade 
Union Act, but to date no unions have been formed, presumably 
because of the small size of the wage economy and the lack of 
a perceived need for unions.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Since no unions have been formed, collective bargaining is not 
practiced.  There is no legislation permitting and protecting 
collective bargaining or the right to organize.  Labor laws 
and regulations are uniformly enforced in all sectors of the 
economy, including in the two small export enhancement zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is prohibited by law and not practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Child labor is not used in the wage economy, although there is 
no legislation prohibiting it.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Tonga does not have a minimum wage law.  However, the Ministry 
of Labor, Commerce, and Industry has for some years set 
minimum daily wages for such sectors of the economy as 
manufacturing and tourism.  The minimum wage applies to so few 
people that it is not generally known.  (Minimum wage figures 
are not readily available.)  Existing minimum wages are not 
adequate to provide a worker and his family with a decent 
standard of living.  Workers are protected to a degree, 
however, by the ease with which they can return to their 
villages and live without a cash income if wages offered are 
inadequate.  The Tongan cultural tradition of extended family 
support provides an additional economic safety net.


By regulation the workweek in Tonga is limited to 40 hours.  
Labor laws and regulations are enforced by the Ministry of 
Labor, Commerce, and Industry.  Labor laws and regulations are 
enforced reasonably well in the wage sector of the economy, 
particularly on the main island of Tongatapu.  Enforcement in 
agriculture and on the outer islands is limited by isolation.  

Industrial accidents are rare, as few industries exist that 
would expose workers to significant danger.  Due to these 
factors, there has been little or no work done in Tonga on 
industrial safety standards.


[end of document]

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