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









                        MARSHALL ISLANDS


The Republic of the Marshall Islands, a self-governing nation 
under the Compact of Free Association with the United States, 
is composed of a number of small islands in the central 
Pacific, comprising a total land area of about 70 square 
miles.  The population of approximately 50,000 is of 
Micronesian origin and concentrated primarily on Majuro and 
Kwajalein atolls.

The Constitution provides for free and fair elections, 
executive and legislative branches, and an independent 
judiciary.  The legislature consists of the Nitijela, a 
33-member Parliament, and a Council of Chiefs (Iroij), which 
serves a largely consultative function dealing with custom and 
traditional practice.  The President is elected by majority 
vote of the Nitijela, and he appoints his Cabinet from its 
membership.

Under the Compact of Free Association, the United States is 
responsible for defense and national security, and the Marshall 
Islands has no security forces of its own.  The national and 
local police forces, supervised by the Ministry of Justice, 
have responsibility for internal security.  These agencies 
observe constitutional and legal protections of civil rights in 
carrying out their responsibilities.

The economy depends mainly on transfer payments from the United 
States.  Coconut oil and copra exports, a small amount of 
tourism, and the fishing industry generate limited revenues.

Human rights abuses are rare, but government influence leads to 
occasional instances of self-censorship in sensitive political 
or cultural areas.

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, inhuman, or 
degrading treatment or punishment, and there was no evidence 
that it occurred.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides for safeguards against arbitrary 
arrest and detention, and no such incidents were reported.  
Forced exile does not occur.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, 
and this right is observed in practice.  The Government 
provides legal counsel for the indigent.  There were no 
reported denials of fair public trial.

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

The law provides for privacy of the home.  This is respected by 
the Government.  There was no known instance of arbitrary 
intrusion by the State into the private life of the individual.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, 
and the Government generally honors these rights in practice.  
However, government influence leads to occasional 
self-censorship by the media in areas of political or cultural 
sensitivity.  There are four operating radio stations, one 
government owned, and three privately owned, including one 
owned by a prominent member of the opposition.  A cable 
television company is owned and operated by members of the 
political opposition.  It shows U.S. programming but 
occasionally covers local events.  In 1994 the Government 
closed the single television station, operated by the national 
museum, as a cost saving measure.

A U.S. citizen and longtime resident operates the country's 
sole newspaper.  The editor and two reporters are also U.S.  
citizens.

In September the Nitijela passed a resolution expressing its 
displeasure over public comments attributed to a prominent U.S. 
attorney that were perceived to be critical of the Government.  
The resolution did not repeat what was said, nor did it state 
what the Government found offensive.  The resolution demanded 
that the attorney express a formal apology, which he did in a 
letter to the President.

The Government publishes a monthly gazette containing official 
news and notices only.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and 
association, and this is observed in practice.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for the free exercise of religion and 
this is observed in practice.

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

Citizens are free to travel within the country and abroad. 
Neither emigration nor repatriation is restricted.

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

The Constitution provides citizens this right and it is 
exercised in practice.  The Government is chosen by secret 
ballot in free and open elections every 4 years.  Suffrage is 
universal for those 18 years of age and older.  The formation 
of political parties is not restricted, although political 
activity by aliens is prohibited.  The Marshall Islands, 
however, has had the same President since 1979, due primarily 
to traditional loyalties and concentrated political influence.

There are no legal impediments to women's participation in 
government and politics.  A woman currently serves as the 
Minister of Education, and two women serve in deputy minister 
positions.  The mayor of Majuro, the country's capital and 
principal urban center, also is a woman.  Although women's role 
in government is increasing, they remain underrepresented in 
Parliament and other government positions.

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

While there are no official restrictions, no local 
nongovernmental human rights organizations have been formed.  
No international human rights organization has expressed 
interest or concern or visited the country.

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

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, 
race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, 
national or social origin, place of birth, family status, or 
descent, and the Government respects these provisions.

     Women

Inheritance of property and of traditional rank is matrilineal, 
with women occupying positions of importance within the 
traditional system.  No instances of unequal pay for equal work 
or sex-related job discrimination were reported.

There are occasional allegations of violence against women, 
mainly related to domestic abuse.  According to the 
Government's public health office and women's groups, only a 
few such cases are reported to the authorities every year, but 
many more are believed to go unreported.  Although assault is a 
criminal offense, women are reluctant to prosecute their 
spouses.

     Children

The Government is committed to children's welfare through its 
programs of health care and education, but these have not been 
adequate to meet the needs of the country's sharply increasing 
population.  The Domestic Relations Amendment of 1993 defines 
child abuse and neglect and makes them criminal offenses.  
Other legislation requires teachers, caregivers, and other 
persons to report instances of child abuse and exempts them 
from civil or criminal liability.  According to the Attorney 
General's office, however, the child abuse law is vague and 
difficult to apply.  That office at year's end had the law 
under study with a view to proposing revisions which would  
make it more clear and practical.  Child abuse is thought to be 
relatively uncommon, and there have been no child abuse 
prosecutions.

     People with Disabilities

There is no legislation specifically prohibiting discrimination 
based on disability.  Until 1994 there were no building codes, 
and there is still no legislation requiring access for the 
disabled.  There have been no reported instances of 
discrimination against the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right of free association in 
general, and the Government interprets this right as allowing 
the existence of labor unions; however, none has been formed to 
date.  The Constitution does not provide for the right to 
strike, and the Government has not addressed this issue.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

There is no legislation concerning collective bargaining or 
trade union organization.  However, there are no impediments to 
the organization of trade unions or to collective bargaining.  
Wages in the cash economy are determined by market factors in 
accordance with the minimum wage and other laws.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits involuntary servitude, and there is 
no evidence of its practice.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law does not prohibit the employment of children.  Children 
are not typically employed in the wage economy, but some assist 
their families with fishing, agriculture, and other small-scale 
family enterprises.  The law requires compulsory education for 
children aged 6 to 14; but the Government does not enforce this 
law due to a lack of classrooms and teachers.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is a government-specified minimum wage established by 
law, and it is adequate to maintain a decent standard of living 
in this subsistence economy, where extended families are 
expected to help less fortunate family members.  The minimum 
hourly wage for all government and private sector employees is 
$1.50.  (The U.S. dollar is the local currency.)  The Ministry 
of Resources and Development oversees minimum wage regulations, 
and its oversight has been considered adequate.  Foreign 
employees and Marshallese trainees of private employers who 
have invested in or established a business in the country are 
exempt from minimum wage requirements.  This exemption does not 
affect a significant segment of the work force.  There is no 
legislation concerning maximum hours of work or occupational 
safety and health, although most businesses are closed on 
Sundays.  In 1994, in an attempt to cut government spending, 
legislation was passed to shorten the workweek of most 
government employees.

A Labor Board makes recommendations to the Nitijela on working 
conditions, e.g., minimum wage, work hours, overtime payments, 
and occupational health and safety standards in accordance with 
International Labor Organization conventions.  The Board meets 
periodically and is open to the public.  There is no 
legislation specifically giving workers the right to remove 
themselves from situations which endanger their health or 
safety without jeopardy to their continued employment, and no 
legislation protecting workers who file complaints about such 
conditions.


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[end of document]

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