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

                         TUVALU


Tuvalu, with about 9,500 people occupying a land surface area 
of 26 square kilometers on 9 atolls in the central South 
Pacific, is one of the world's smallest independent nations.  
The population is primarily Polynesian.  Tuvalu became 
independent from the United Kingdom on October 1, 1978, and it 
is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.  Its Constitution 
provides for a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy.  
Tuvalu's Head of State is the British Queen, represented by the 
Governor-General who must be a Tuvaluan citizen.

A 32-member police constabulary, the only security apparatus, 
is responsible to and effectively controlled by civilian 
authority.

The economy, primarily subsistence based, relies mainly on 
coconuts, taro, and fishing.  Tuvalu depends heavily on foreign 
aid, mainly from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Taiwan.  In 
the early 1980's, with the assistance of the United Kingdom, 
Australia, and New Zealand, the Government established the 
Tuvalu Trust Fund to meet its recurrent and capital 
expenditures.  Remittances from Tuvaluans working abroad, the 
sale of commemorative and thematic postage stamps and of 
fishing licenses to foreign vessels, provide additional sources 
of foreign exchange.  Tuvalu's isolation and meager natural 
resources severely limit prospects for economic 
self-sufficiency.

Tuvaluan society is egalitarian, democratic, and respectful of 
human rights.  Social behavior, as determined by custom and 
tradition, however, is considered as important as the law and 
is ensured by the village elders.  Land is also key to much of 
the structure of Tuvaluan society.  There were no reports of 
specific human rights abuses in 1993.  However, in the 
traditional culture of the islands, women occupy a subordinate 
role, with limits on their job opportunities, although recently 
there has been substantial effort to accord women equality in 
employment and decisionmaking.  

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 politically motivated killings.


     b.  Disappearance

There were no disappearances, and no evidence of people being 
abducted for political reasons. 

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

Torture and inhuman or degrading punishment are forbidden by 
the Constitution, and there were no reported instances of such 
practices.  Local hereditary elders exercise considerable 
traditional authority--including the seldom invoked right to 
inflict corporal punishment for infringing customary 
rules--which can be at odds with the national law.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Constitutional safeguards against arbitrary arrest and 
detention are observed in practice.  There is no exile.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system consists of the higher courts, namely, the 
Privy Council, the Court of Appeal, and the High Court; and the 
lower courts, i.e., those of the senior and resident 
magistrates, the island courts, and the land courts.  The Chief 
Justice, who is also Chief Justice of the neighboring island 
nation of Nauru, sits on the High Court about once a year.

The right to a fair public trial is ensured by law and observed 
in practice.  The Constitution provides that accused persons 
must be informed of the nature of the offenses with which they 
are charged and be provided the time and facilities required to 
prepare a defense.  An independent people's lawyer is ensured 
by statute.  The services of this public defender are available 
to all Tuvaluans free of charge.  The right to confront 
witnesses, present evidence, and appeal convictions is 
enshrined in law.  Procedural safeguards are based on English 
common law.  The judiciary is independent and free of 
governmental interference.  Tuvalu has no political prisoners.

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

The privacy of the home is protected in law and respected by 
the Government.  There is no arbitrary intrusion by the State 
or political organizations into the private life of the 
individual.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and press is provided for in the Constitution 
and observed in practice.  Tuvalu has a radio station under 
government control.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and 
association, and there are no significant restrictions in 
practice.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion prevails in Tuvalu.  The separation of 
church and state is respected.

     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 repatriation.  Tuvalu has no 
refugees or displaced persons.

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

The people freely elect their government.  Tuvalu's 12-member 
unicameral Parliament is elected directly by the people.  A 
speaker elected by Members of Parliament (M.P.'s) presides over 
Parliament.  Parliament's normal term is 4 years.  The minimum 
voting age is 18 years.

The Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister, elected by secret 
ballot from among the M.P.'s, and up to four other ministers, 
appointed and removed from office by the Governor General with 
the advice of the Prime Minister.  There are no formal 
political parties in Tuvalu.  The Prime Minister may be removed 
from office by a parliamentary vote of no confidence.  

Tuvalu has a 12-member Parliament. The September 1993 election 
resulted in a parliamentary impasse as no member secured the 
seven votes needed to be elected as Prime Minister.  
Governor-General Lauti appointed out-going Prime Minister 
Bikenibeu Paeniu as caretaker Prime Minister until a new 
election was held November 24.  When the Parliament met on 
December 10, Kamuta Latasi, supported by his wife and fellow 
M.P., Naama Maheu Latasi, abandoned former Prime Minister 
Paeniu's team in exchange for the Prime Ministership.  Naama 
Latasi, a former Minister of Health in the Paeniu government, 
and the only female among Tuvalu's 12 parliamentarians, was 
given no cabinet post in the new Government.  Each of the 
islands is administered by six-person councils, also elected by 
universal suffrage to 4-year terms.

Over the past 2 years, Tuvalu has been debating if it should 
become a republic, primarily as an economy measure.  Former 
Prime Minister Paeniu called for a national referendum, and a 
consultative process began in mid-1992.  Each island community 
is deliberating the issue in its respective council.  Once all 
results have been reported to Parliament, the Government will 
announce its decision. 

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

There have been no reported allegations of human rights 
violations by the Government and no known requests for 
investigations.  While no known barriers block their 
establishment, there are no local nongovernmental organizations 
that concern themselves with human rights.  Tuvalu is not a 
member of the United Nations.

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

     Women

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, 
creed, sex, or national origin.  Women increasingly hold 
positions in the health and education sectors.  This trend was 
partly due to the efforts of Prime Minister Paeniu, who was 
known to favor greater opportunities for women.  Paeniu named 
women among his senior advisors, included them in his Cabinet, 
and encouraged increased participation by women in valuable 
overseas training opportunities.  Violence against women is 
rare in Tuvalu.  If wife beating occurs, it is infrequent and 
has not become a source of societal concern.


     Children

There are no reports of child abuse.  If it does occur, it is 
rare.  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

Although there are no mandated accessibility provisions for the 
disabled, there are no known reports of discrimination in 
employment, education, or provision of other state services.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers are free to organize unions and choose their own labor 
representatives, but most of the population lacks permanent 
employment and is engaged in subsistence activity.  The right 
to strike is provided for by law, but no strike has ever been 
recorded.

In the public sector, the country's civil servants, teachers, 
and nurses--who, taken together, total less than 1,000 
employees--are grouped into associations which do not presently 
have the status of unions.  The only registered trade union, 
the Tuvalu Seamen's Union, has about 600 members, who work on 
foreign merchant vessels.  The Seamen's Union is a member of 
the International Transportation Workers' Federation.  

In 1993 the South Pacific and Oceanic Council of Trade Unions 
held a seminar in Tuvalu to promote trade unionism.  The 
attendees issued calls for the establishment of a national 
committee to strengthen the union movement, the setting up of a 
credit union facility, and a continuing program of union 
education.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Industrial Relations Code (1978) provides for conciliation, 
arbitration, and settlement procedures in cases of labor 
disputes.  Although there are provisions for collective 
bargaining, in practice in the private sector wages are set by 
employers.  The Minister of Labor, Works, and Communications 
may establish an Incomes Commission to determine appropriate 
levels of pay.  For both the private and public sectors, the 
legal procedures for resolving labor disputes noted above are 
seldom used; instead, the two sides normally engage in 
nonconfrontational deliberations in the local multipurpose 
meeting hall.

Tuvalu is not a member of the International Labor Organization.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Article 74 of the Tuvalu Employment Ordinance (1978) prohibits 
forced or compulsory labor, and there have been no reports of 
either being practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Section 60 of the Employment Act prohibits children under the 
age of 14 from working.  Education is compulsory for children 
from 6 through 13 years of age.  The Employment Act also 
prohibits children under 15 years of age from industrial 
employment or work on any ship and stipulates that children 
under the age of 18 years are not allowed to enter into formal 
contracts including work contracts.  Children are rarely 
employed outside the traditional economy.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The modest minimum wage, set administratively by the 
Government, is sufficient to allow a worker and family in the 
wage economy to maintain a decent standard of living.  The 
present minimum wage in the public (government) sector is $0.40 
per hour ($A0.55) per hour.  This rate applies for men and 
women, for young and old.  In most cases, the private sector 
adopts the same minimum wage rate.  

The Labor Office may specify the days and hours of work for 
workers in various industries.  The workday is legally set at 8 
hours.  The majority of workers are outside of the wage 
economy.  Rudimentary health and safety standards are provided 
for by law.  They require employers to provide an adequate 
portable water supply, basic sanitary arrangements, and medical 
care.  Specific provisions of the law provide for the 
protection of female workers.  The Ministry of Labor, Works and 
Communications is responsible for the enforcement of the 
rudimentary safety and health regulations.  With the limited 
resources of its economy, Tuvalu can provide only a minimum of 
enforcement.  


[end of document]

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