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TITLE: ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY 1995




                      ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA


Antigua and Barbuda, a small two-island state, is a 
parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth of 
Nations.  A Prime Minister, a Cabinet, and a bicameral 
Legislative Assembly comprise the Government.  A Governor 
General, appointed by the British monarch, is the titular Head 
of State, with largely ceremonial duties.  Power passed 
peacefully from Prime Minister V.C. Bird, Sr. to his son, 
Lester B. Bird, in general elections held in March.   The 
Antigua Labour Party retained power by capturing 10 of 17 
parliamentary seats, down from the 15 it held under V.C. Bird's 
administration.  The Governor General appoints the 15 Senators, 
11 with the advice of the Prime Minister and 4 with the advice 
of the opposition leader.

Security forces consist of a police force and the small Antigua 
and Barbuda Defence Force.  The police are organized, trained, 
and supervised according to British law enforcement practices, 
and have a reputation for respecting individual rights in the 
performance of their duties.

Antigua and Barbuda has a mixed economy with a strong private 
sector.  Tourism, the most important source of foreign exchange 
earnings, improved during the year, due mainly to improved 
economic conditions in the United States and Europe.  The 
country is burdened by a large and growing external debt which 
remains a serious economic problem.  The Government announced a 
series of severe tax and other austerity measures for 1995 
aimed at addressing the debt, prompting mounting but peaceful 
social protest.

Although the Government generally respects the constitutional 
provisions for political and civil rights, it restricts freedom 
of speech and the press in practice.  The Government placed 
some restrictions on the opposition's freedom of assembly and 
access to government-controlled broadcast media in the 1994 
election campaign, during which there were scattered acts of 
violence.  Societal discrimination and violence against women 
continued to be problems.

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 and other cruel or inhuman 
treatment of prisoners or detainees, and the authorities 
generally respected these prohibitions in practice.  A 1990 law 
allows flogging as a penalty for rape.  The courts may also 
impose flogging on convicted child molesters, although there 
were no such instances in 1994.

Conditions at the lone 18th-century-vintage prison are 
primitive, and a 1930 law still governs treatment of prisoners.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and 
the Government respects these provisions in practice.  Criminal 
defendants have the right of judicial determination of the 
legality of their detention.  The police must bring detainees 
before a court within 48 hours of arrest or detention.  
Opposition leaders claim the Government has developed a pattern 
of arresting suspects on Fridays and holding them until 
Tuesdays.  Most of these cases involve youths suspected of 
narcotics violations.

There were no reports of involuntary exile.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system is part of the Eastern Caribbean legal 
system and reflects historical ties to the United Kingdom.  The 
Queen's Privy Council is the final court of appeal, which is 
invariably employed in the case of death sentences.  There are 
no military or political courts.  The Constitution provides 
that criminal defendants receive a fair, open, and public 
trial.  In capital cases only, the Government provides legal 
assistance at public expense to persons without the means to 
retain a private attorney.

There are no political prisoners.

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

The Constitution provides for these rights, and there were no 
reports of arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, 
or correspondence.  The police must obtain a warrant from an 
officer of the court before searching private premises.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech, the press, and 
other forms of communications.  The authorities generally 
respect these provisions in practice.  However, the Government 
dominates the electronic media--the only daily source of 
news--and effectively denies equal access to opposition 
parties.  The Government owns one of the two radio stations and 
the single television station.  One of the Prime Minister's 
brothers owns the second radio station, and another brother is 
the principal owner of the sole cable television company.  The 
government-controlled media reported regularly on the 
Government's and the ruling party's activities during the 
election campaign, but granted only very limited access to the 
opposition parties.

Political opposition parties and private sector organizations 
such as the Chamber of Commerce publish several weekly 
newspapers which offer a variety of opinions without government 
interference.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly.  
The police normally issued the required permits for public 
meetings.  However, during the 1994 political campaign, 
opposition leaders claimed police routinely denied permits for 
rallies on political grounds.  The police contend that delays 
and refusals in issuing permits were intended to avert violent 
confrontations.  While the authorities placed some restrictions 
on demonstrations, the opposition was able to stage numerous 
public meetings, rallies, and other events with little 
interference.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and all 
groups are free to maintain links with coreligionists in other 
countries.

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

Neither law nor practice restricts the right of citizens to 
move about within the country, to travel abroad, or to emigrate.

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

Antigua and Barbuda has a multiparty political system 
accommodating a wide spectrum of political viewpoints.  All 
citizens 18 years of age and older may register and vote by 
secret ballot.  The Constitution requires general elections at 
least every 5 years.  The law obligates the Government to hold 
voter registration during a fixed period each year, and parties 
conduct their own registration drives free of government 
interference.  The Antigua Labour Party (ALP) won the March 8 
election for the fourth consecutive time, although party 
leadership passed from outgoing Prime Minister V.C. Bird to his 
son, Lester B. Bird.  The ALP won 10 of 17 seats, less than its 
previous 15 to 2 majority.

Except for a period of opposition from 1971 to 1976, the ALP 
has held power continuously from 1951.  The opposition has 
charged that the ALP's longstanding monopoly on patronage and 
its influence over access to economic opportunities make it 
extremely difficult for opposition parties to attract 
membership and financial support.  In 1992 public concern over 
corruption in government spawned the merger of three opposition 
political parties into the United Progressive Party (UPP).  The 
UPP succeeded in increasing its representation to seven seats 
from five during the election.

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

While there are no governmental restrictions, no local human 
rights groups have formed to date.  There were no requests for 
human rights investigations or inquiries during the year.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, creed, 
language, or social status, and the Government generally 
observed its provisions.

     Women

While the role of women in society is not legally restricted, 
tradition tends to limit women to home and family, particularly 
in rural areas, and to restrict their career options.  To 
change these traditional roles, the Government began programs 
to provide enhanced educational opportunities for both sexes, 
as well as family planning services.  The Directorate of 
Women's Affairs (previously the Women's Desk) worked 
energetically, with some success, to help women advance in 
government and the professions, but progress was slower in the 
private sector.

Violence against women is a recognized social problem.  It is 
treated as a matter of public conscience, and there are 
nongovernmental social welfare groups focused on the problem.  
Knowledgeable sources believe that over 2,000 incidents of 
physical and mental violence occurred.  Women in many cases are 
reluctant to testify against their abusers.  Police generally 
refrain from intervening in cases of domestic violence, and 
some women have credibly charged that the courts are lenient in 
such cases.

     Children

Child abuse remains a hidden problem.  While the Government 
repeatedly expressed its commitment to children's rights, no 
significant efforts were made to protect those rights in 
practice, and abuse tends to go unpunished.

     People with Disabilities

There are no specific laws mandating accessibility for the 
disabled, but there are constitutional provisions that prohibit 
discrimination against the physically disabled in employment 
and education.  There is no evidence of widespread 
discrimination against physically disabled individuals, although
the Government does not visibly enforce the constitutional 
antidiscrimination provisions.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the right to associate freely and to form labor 
unions, and the authorities generally respect these rights in 
practice.  Although fewer than 50 percent of workers belong to 
unions, the important hotel industry is heavily unionized.  
Antigua and Barbuda has two major trade unions:  the Antigua 
Trades and Labour Union (ATLU) and the Antigua Workers' Union 
(AWU).  The ATLU is associated with the ruling ALP, while the 
larger and more active AWU is rather loosely allied with the 
opposition.

The Labor Code recognizes the right to strike, but the Court of 
Industrial Relations may limit this right in a given dispute.  
Once either party to a dispute requests the court to mediate, 
there can be no strike.  Because of the delays associated with 
this process, unions often resolve labor disputes before a 
strike is called.  There was a 7-hour strike by the association 
of gasoline retailers, which ended when the Government agreed 
to rescind a proposed 15-percent excise tax increase on 
gasoline.

Unions are free to affiliate with international labor 
organizations and do so in practice.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Labor organizations are free to organize and bargain 
collectively.  The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, and 
there were no reports that it occurred.  Employers found guilty 
of antiunion discrimination are not required to rehire 
employees fired for union activities, but must pay full 
severance pay and full wages lost by the employee from the time 
of firing until the determination of employer fault.  There are 
no areas of the country where union organization or collective 
bargaining is discouraged or impeded.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution forbids slavery and forced labor, and they do 
not exist in practice.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law stipulates a minimum working age of 13, which is 
respected in practice.  The Ministry of Labour, which is 
required by law to conduct periodic inspections of workplaces, 
has responsibility for enforcement.  There have been no reports 
of minimum age employment violations.  The political strength 
of the two major unions and the powerful influence of the 
Government on the private sector combine to make the Ministry 
of Labour very effective in enforcement in this area.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law established minimum wages for various work categories 
in 1981.  The lowest minimum wage, for domestic workers, is 
$0.46 (EC$1.25) per hour; the highest minimum wage, for skilled 
labor, is $1.30 (EC$3.50) per hour.  Most minimum wages would 
not provide a decent standard of living for workers and their 
families, but in practice the great majority of workers earn 
substantially more than the minimum wage.

The law permits a maximum 48-hour, 6-day workweek, but in 
practice the standard workweek is 40 hours in 5 days.  The law 
provides workers a minimum of 3 weeks of annual leave and up to 
13 weeks of maternity leave.

There are no occupational health and safety laws or 
regulations; thus there is no provision for a worker to leave a 
dangerous workplace situation without jeopardy to continued 
employment.(###)

[end of document]

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