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TITLE:  SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995










                     SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE


The Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe is a 
multiparty democracy.  The Government is comprised of an 
independent judiciary, a unicameral legislature (National 
Assembly), and an executive branch in which power is divided 
between the President and the Prime Minister.  The Party of 
Democratic Convergence (PCD) won parliamentary elections in 
1991 and thereby earned the right to name the Prime Minister 
and form a government.  Miguel Trovoada, an independent, won 
Presidential election in 1991.  Longstanding disagreement 
between the President and Prime Minister over interpretation of 
their respective constitutional powers, among other issues, 
culminated in July when Trovoada dismissed the Cabinet and the  
National Assembly and called for early legislative elections.  
The Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe 
(MLSTP), which had ruled prior to 1990 as the sole legal party, 
won a plurality in free and fair parliamentary elections in 
October and formed the new Government.

The Ministry of Defense, Security, and Internal Order 
supervises the military, many of whose members are part-time 
farmers or fishermen.  It also supervises the police.

The economy is based on a single product, cocoa, and an 
archaic, state-run system of plantations called "empresas."  
Despite initial progress in a land redistribution program, 
there was little movement toward privatization, and the economy 
continued to face serious difficulties.

The Government continued to respect the rights of its citizens 
and managed to resolve serious internal conflicts within the 
country's legal and constitutional framework without violence 
or retribution.  Nevertheless, the principal human rights 
problems continued to be an inefficient judicial system, 
societal discrimination against women, and outdated plantation 
labor practices that limited workers' rights.

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.

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

The Constitution prohibits torture or cruel and inhuman 
punishment.  There were anecdotal reports of overzealous 
security forces using excessive force during an arrest on at 
least one occasion, but no reports of gross violations, such as 
beatings or other cruel treatment during interrogations.  
Prison conditions are harsh but not life-threatening.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides for procedural protections in case of 
detention.  There was no evidence of arbitrary arrest or 
detention.  Exile is not used as a punishment and all those 
exiled under the former regime have been given the opportunity 
to return.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for the right to fair public trial 
and the right of appeal in civil cases.  For criminal cases, it 
provides for the right to legal representation and a public 
trial before a judge.  In practice, however, the judicial 
infrastructure suffers from severe budgetary restraints, 
inadequate facilities, and a shortage of trained judges and 
lawyers, causing long delays in bringing cases to court and 
greatly hindering investigations in criminal cases.  The 
judiciary is independent of both the President and the 
Government and has returned verdicts to the displeasure of 
both.  The government determines salaries for all ministerial 
employees in accordance with standard government salary 
guidelines.  All Government salaries are extremely low, but 
there were no reports of judges accepting bribes or being 
pressured by the Government.

There were no known political prisoners or detainees.

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

The Constitution provides for the integrity of the person and 
the right to privacy of home, correspondence, and private 
communication.  The Government does not engage in intrusive 
practices, such as surveillance of individuals or 
communications.  The Judicial Police are responsible for 
criminal investigations and must obtain authorization from the 
Ministry of Justice to conduct searches.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression and freedom 
of the press, and the Government generally respects these in 
practice.  One government-run and four independent newspapers 
publish periodically; none appeared during the second half of 
the year, due to financial constraints.  Television and radio 
are state-operated; while no independent stations currently 
exist, there are no laws forbidding their operation.

The law grants all opposition parties access to the state-run 
media, including a minimum of 3 minutes per month on 
television.  In late December 1993, then Secretary of State for 
Social Communications Gustavo dos Anjos suspended this right, 
reportedly in reaction to a televised press conference in which 
the MLSTP strongly criticized the PCD Government.  When 
journalists protested in January by covering a second MLSTP 
conference "without authorization," dos Anjos fired television 
director Carlos Teixera.  By May the Government had restored 
opposition telecast access, and since the naming of the interim 
Government in July, opposition parties--including the ousted 
PCD--have enjoyed steadily increasing access to the media.

The campaign by all parties for October's legislative elections 
was active and outspoken.  In the absence of a facility to 
produce newspapers, all parties freely distributed newsletters 
and press releases, criticizing the Government, the President, 
and one another.  There were no reports of government 
censorship or threats of censorship from any group, nor 
assertions of national security to suppress criticism.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right to associate freely and 
to demonstrate publicly, and the Government respects this right 
in practice.  The Government requires that requests for 
authorization of large-scale events be filed 48 hours in 
advance, and usually grants the appropriate permits.  Although 
bureaucratic delays often occur, there were no instances of 
authorizations being withheld for political reasons.  Numerous 
rallies and gatherings took place peacefully during the 
legislative election campaign, and there were no reports of 
interference with those that occurred spontaneously or lacked 
authorization.  There were no reports of forced restrictions on 
meetings of municipal committees.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the 
Government respects this right in practice.  There are no 
restrictions on the activities of foreign clergy.

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

Under the Constitution and in practice, citizens have the right 
to move freely within the country and to emigrate and return.  
Exit visas are not required.

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

Citizens exercised this right for the first time in free and 
fair presidential and legislative elections in 1991, and again 
in the legislative elections held October 2, 1994, which 
resulted in the peaceful transfer of power to the opposition 
MLSTP party.  The MLSTP won 27 seats while the PCD won 14.  A 
third party, the Independent Democratic Action Party, headed by 
the President's son Patrice, also won 14 seats.  Elections are 
by secret ballot on the basis of universal suffrage at 18 years 
of age.

There are no restrictions in law or practice on the 
participation of women in politics.  Three women currently hold 
seats in the National Assembly, and women occupy important 
posts in the Government.  There are no women in the Cabinet.

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

A small number of local human rights groups have formed since 
1991 without restriction or governmental interference.  There 
were no known requests by international human rights groups to 
visit the country.

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

The Constitution provides that all citizens, regardless of sex, 
race, racial origin, political tendency, creed or philosophic 
conviction, are equal under the law.

     Women

The Constitution stipulates that women and men have equal 
rights to full political, economic, and social participation.  
Women have access to opportunities in education, business, and 
government, and many women occupy positions of leadership in 
the private and public sectors.  In practice, however, women 
still encounter substantial discrimination.  Traditional 
beliefs concerning the division of labor between men and women 
leave women with much of the hard work in agriculture, most 
child-rearing responsibilities, and less access to education 
and the professions.

Some evidence indicates that violence against women is a 
growing problem.  Medical professionals, officials from the 
Ministry of Health and the United Nations report first-hand 
experience in dealing with violence, including rape.  They also 
report that although women have the right to legal 
recourse--including against spouses--many are reluctant to 
complain or are ignorant of their rights under the law.  
Traditional beliefs and practices also inhibit women from 
taking domestic disputes outside the family.

     Children

A number of government and donor-funded programs are 
established to improve conditions for children.  There has been 
improvement in maternity and infant care, nutrition and access 
to basic health services, especially in urban areas.  Although 
no reliable statistics exist on abuse of children, serious 
mistreatment of children is not widespread.

     People with Disabilities

The law does not mandate accessibility for persons with 
disabilities.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.   The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of association and the 
right to strike.  Few unions exist in the very small modern 
wage sector.  One confederation, the Independent Union 
Federation, has been attempting to organize workers on the 
large state-owned plantations, but organizational difficulties 
and the country's poverty hindered its efforts.  Independent 
cooperatives, on the other hand, have taken advantage of the 
government land distribution program to attract workers and, in 
many cases, significantly improve production and incomes.

With slow progress in the Government's efforts to privatize 
state-owned industries, state employees continue to comprise 
the vast majority of the wage-earning work force.  Government 
and other essential workers are allowed to strike.  In May, 
when the Government announced plans to reduce government 
positions by 18 percent, employees struck for 10 days in 
protest.  In late October, employees in the banking sector also 
staged a brief strike for higher wages.

There are no restrictions barring trade unions from joining 
federations or affiliating with international bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution provides that workers may organize and bargain 
collectively.  However, due to its role as the principal 
employer in the wage sector, the Government remains the key 
interlocutor for labor on all matters, including wages.  There 
are no known laws prohibiting antiunion discrimination.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor and it is not 
practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Employers generally respect the legally mandated minimum 
employment age of 18 years in the modern wage sector.  The 
Ministry of Justice and Labor is responsible for enforcing this 
law.  In subsistence agriculture, on plantations, and in 
informal commerce, however, children do work, sometimes from an 
early age.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Working conditions on many of the state-owned plantations--the 
biggest wage employment sector--border on medieval.  There is 
no legally mandated minimum wage, and the average salary for 
plantation workers not only does not permit a decent standard 
of living, but is constantly being eroded by inflation and the 
depreciating exchange rate.  In principle, workers are provided 
free (but poor) housing, rudimentary education and health care, 
and the right to reduced prices and credit at the "company 
store."  Clothes and food are subsidized.  Corruption is 
rampant, however, and international lending institutions have 
criticized the Government for ineffective administration of 
subsidies.  Workers are often forced to purchase the same goods 
they should receive at government-mandated prices for much 
greater prices on a parallel market.

The Social Security Law of 1979 prescribes basic occupational 
health and safety standards.  Inspectors from the Ministry of 
Justice and Labor are responsible for enforcement of these 
standards, but their efforts are ineffective and often 
nonexistent.  The legal workweek is 40 hours with 48 
consecutive hours mandated for a rest period.  Officials 
enforce these laws in the modern wage sector.  Employees have 
the right under the law to leave unsafe working conditions.

(###)


[end of document]

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