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









                            DOMINICA


Dominica is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the 
Commonwealth of Nations.  The Dominica Freedom Party, led by 
Prime Minister Eugenia Charles, has been in office since 1980, 
having won reelection in 1985 and 1990 in free and fair 
elections.  The Constitution calls for elections at least every 
5 years; the next one is due by August 1995.

The Dominica Police is the only security force.  It is  
controlled by and responsive to the democratically elected 
government.

Dominica's primarily agrarian economy depends on earnings from 
banana exports to the United Kingdom.  The banana industry 
throughout the Windward Islands suffered a severe downturn in 
1993-94, and tropical storm Debbie destroyed 15 percent of the 
island's banana trees in September.  The Government is 
attempting to develop its tourist industry, to diversify 
agricultural production, and to promote exports of raw fruits, 
vegetables, and coconut products both within and outside the 
region.

Human rights are generally well respected in Dominica.  In one 
case in which a policeman shot a man, the authorities suspended 
him pending trial for manslaughter.

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 killings.

However, during campaigning for a new chief of the Carib 
indigenous territory in June, a policeman shot and killed a 
man.  The policeman said he was protecting himself and others, 
but witnesses claimed the shooting was unprovoked and stemmed 
from a lingering feud.  The authorities reduced the charges to 
manslaughter, suspended the policeman, and released him on bail 
pending trial in 1995.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances or politically 
motivated abductions.

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

The Constitution prohibits torture or other forms of cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and there were 
no reports of such practices.  Overcrowding and unsanitary 
conditions continue to be problems in Dominica's only prison 
facility.  The presiding High Court justice toured the prison 
in October and condemned the sanitation and living conditions.  
An addition to the prison is under construction.  The prison 
provides work therapy, sports programs, educational 
opportunities, and counseling for inmates.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law requires that police charge persons with a crime within 
24 hours after arrest or detention, or release them from 
custody.  This is honored in practice, except in rare cases in 
which, for example, persons cannot afford legal counsel.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for public trial before an independent, 
impartial court.  Criminal defendants are presumed innocent 
until proven guilty, are allowed legal counsel, and have the 
right to appeal.  Courts provide free legal counsel to 
indigents only in capital cases.

There are no political prisoners.

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

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary entry, search, and 
seizure.  The law requires search warrants.  While there were 
no official reports of arbitrary government intrusions into the 
private lives of individuals, human rights monitors allege that 
the authorities often searched young men with little or no 
probable cause in drug-related inspections.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for the right of free expression, and 
the Government respects this in practice.  The political 
opposition openly criticizes the Government.  Dominica's main 
radio station is state owned but offers ample access for 
citizens to express their views.  There is also an independent 
radio station owned by the Catholic Church which broadcasts, 
although it has not yet been granted an official operating 
license.

Dominicans also enjoy good access to independent news sources 
through cable television and radio reception from neighboring 
islands.  The print media consist of two private newspapers and 
political party journals; all publish without censorship or 
government interference.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Government respects the constitutionally mandated freedoms 
of association and assembly and does not hinder opposition 
groups from holding political meetings or public 
demonstrations.  Such meetings and gatherings were held 
frequently throughout the year.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for and the Government respects in 
practice the right of all citizens to worship freely.

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

The law provides for these rights, and the authorities respect 
them in practice.  The Government may revoke passports if 
subversion is suspected but has not done so in recent times.

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

Dominica, independent since 1978, has a historical tradition of 
democracy and home rule.  The Prime Minister and an appointed 
Cabinet exercise executive power.  The law provides for 
elections by secret ballot to be held at least every 5 years, 
at the discretion of the Prime Minister.  Indigenous Carib 
Indians participate in national political life and enjoy the 
same civil rights accorded other Dominican nationals.  Although 
there are no impediments in law or in fact to the participation 
of women in leadership roles in government or political 
parties, Dominica has only one female Member of Parliament.  
The dearth of women in politics reflects socioeconomic 
prejudices that have relegated women in the eastern Caribbean 
to traditional employment and family roles.

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

There are no government restrictions on the formation of local 
human rights organizations, although no such groups exist.  
Several advocacy groups, such as the Association of Disabled 
People and a women's and children's self-help organization, 
operate freely and without government interference.  There were 
no requests for investigations of human rights abuses from 
international or regional human rights groups during 1994.

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

The Constitution includes provisions against racial and sexual 
discrimination, which the authorities respect in practice.

     Women

Beyond the general protection of the Constitution, women do not 
benefit from any specific civil rights legislation.  There is 
little open discrimination, yet sexual harassment and domestic 
violence cases are common, and there is no family court to deal 
specifically with domestic issues.  Both the police and the 
courts prosecute cases of rape and sexual assault, but there is 
no specific recourse for women who are abused by their 
husbands.  Women can bring charges against husbands for 
battery, but there are no specific spousal abuse laws.  The 
Welfare Department often provides assistance to victims of 
abuse by finding them temporary shelter, providing counseling 
to both parties, or recommending police action.  The Welfare 
Department reports all cases of abuse to the police.  The 
courts may issue protective orders, but the police do not 
consistently enforce them.

Property ownership continues to be deeded to "heads of 
households", who are usually males.  When the husband head of 
household dies without a will, the wife cannot inherit the 
property or sell it, although she can live in it and pass it to 
her children.  In the civil service, the law establishes fixed 
pay rates for specific jobs, whatever the gender of the 
incumbent.  There is no law requiring equal pay for equal work 
for private sector workers.

     Children

Various laws enumerate children's rights in Dominica.  Reported 
cases of child abuse increased from 127 in 1990 to 252 in 1993; 
the Government has not responded with any increase in the 
number of social workers assigned to handle such cases.  
Although the maximum sentence for sexual molestation (rape, 
incest) is life imprisonment, the normal sentence given is 15 
years except in the case of murder.  During 1992 the age of 
consent to sexual relations was raised from 14 to 16.

     Indigenous People

There is a significant Carib Indian population in Dominica, 
estimated at 3,000 out of a total population of 72,000.  Most 
live on a 3,700-acre reservation created in 1903.  School, 
water, and health facilities available on the Carib reservation 
are similar to those available to other rural Dominicans.

     People with Disabilities

Beyond the general protection of the Constitution, there is no 
specific legislation dealing with the disabled.  There is no 
requirement mandating access for those with disabilities.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

All workers have the legal right to organize, to choose their 
representatives, and to strike, but unions represent less than 
10 percent of the work force.  All unions are independent of 
the Government.  While there are no direct ties, members of 
certain political parties dominate some unions.  There was a 
major strike by taxi and bus workers in April 1994.  There is 
no restriction on forming labor federations, and unions are 
affiliated with various international labor bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Unions have legally defined rights to organize workers and to 
bargain with employers.  Collective bargaining is widespread in 
the nonagricultural sectors of the economy, including the 
government service, and there is also recourse to mediation and 
arbitration by the Government.  The law prohibits antiunion 
discrimination by employers, and judicial and police 
authorities enforce union rights.  In addition, employers must 
reinstate workers fired for union activities.  It is legally 
compulsory for employers to recognize unions as bargaining 
agents once both parties have followed appropriate procedures.  
Department of Labour inspectors under the supervision of the 
Labour Commissioner enforce labor legislation, but the small 
Labour Inspection Office lacks qualified personnel to carry out 
its duties.

Labor regulations and practice governing Dominica's industrial 
areas and other export firms do not differ from those 
prevailing in the rest of the economy.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and it does not 
exist.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum legal age for employment is 15 years.  Employers 
generally observe this law without government enforcement.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law sets minimum wages for various categories of workers.  
These were last revised in November 1989.  The minimum wage 
rate for most categories of workers is $0.56 (EC$1.50) per 
hour, but for domestic servants it is $0.37 (EC$1.00) per hour 
if meals are included, and $0.46 (EC$1.25) per hour if meals 
are not included.  The minimum wage is not sufficient to 
provide a decent standard of living for a household.  However, 
most workers (including domestics) earn more than the 
legislated minimum wage.

The standard legal workweek is 40 hours in 5 days.  The law 
provides for a minimum of 2 weeks' paid vacation.  The 
Employment Safety Act provides occupational health and safety 
regulation.  Local nongovernmental organizations and one major 
union consider it to be consistent with international 
standards.  The Advisory Committee on Safety and Health is an 
established body but has never met.  The rarely used 
enforcement mechanism consists of inspections by the Department 
of Labour, which can and does prescribe specific compliance 
measures, impose fines, and prosecute offenders.  Workers have 
to right to remove themselves from unsafe work environments 
without jeopardy to continued employment.

(###)

[end of document]

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