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









                             SYRIA


Despite the existence of some institutions of democratic 
government, Syria's political system places virtually absolute 
authority in the hands of President Hafiz Al-Asad and a 
relatively small circle of security advisers.  Key decisions 
regarding foreign policy, national security, and the economy 
are made by President Asad with counsel from his ministers and 
principal advisers.  Although the Parliament is elected every 4 
years, the Ba'th Party is guaranteed a majority.  The 
Parliament generally does not initiate laws but only passes 
judgment on those proposed by the executive branch.  All three 
branches of government are guided by the views of the Ba'th 
Party, whose primacy in state institutions is mandated by the 
Constitution.

Syria has been under a state of emergency almost continuously 
since 1963.  The Government justifies martial law because of 
the state of war with Israel and alleged threats from terrorist 
groups (Islamic fundamentalists, Iraqi, and others.)  It uses 
its vast powers so effectively that there have been few 
antiregime manifestations.  Although the Constitution provides 
for the protection of fundamental rights, the state of 
emergency allows the security services to override these rights 
in their treatment of suspects, detainees, and prisoners.  The 
branches of the security services operate independently of each 
other and outside the legal system.  They continue to be 
responsible for severe human rights violations.

The economy is based on commerce, agriculture, and some oil 
production.  It is dominated by an inefficient public sector 
and hobbled by a complex bureaucracy and endemic corruption.  
The regime has sought to promote the private sector through 
legislated incentives and deregulation.  Real economic growth 
is about 4 percent, annual per capita Gross Domestic Product is 
about $900, and inflation about 16 percent a year.

Despite some improvements, the Government continues to restrict 
or deny fundamental rights.  Serious abuses include the 
widespread use of torture; arbitrary arrest and prolonged 
detention without trial; continued imprisonment after prisoners 
have served their sentences; unfair trials in state security 
cases; the denial of the freedoms of speech, press, and 
association; abuses committed under the state of emergency, and 
suppression of workers' rights.  Discrimination and violence 
against women also exists, but not as a result of government 
policy.  Because the Ba'th Party dominates the political system 
and the public sector, the people do not have the right to 
change the Government.

There were some positive developments:  the Government 
completed issuance of travel permits to all Jews wishing them; 
exhibited somewhat greater responsiveness to international 
inquiries regarding political prisoners and detainees; and 
imprisoned some police officials who physically abused 
prisoners or employed excessive force against suspects.

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, although such 
killings have taken place in the past.  There were reports of 
two deaths of persons in police custody in 1994.  In April 
police beat Abd al-Hadi al-Mulhim to death at a police station 
during interrogation.  The policemen who allegedly participated 
in the beating were arrested, then released by an investigating 
judge, and later rearrested by order of an Appeals Court.  Also 
in April, a 33-year-old Lebanese citizen, Dani Mansurati, 
reportedly died in custody at the headquarters of the Air Force 
Intelligence in Damascus.  Mansurati was reportedly arrested in 
May 1992 and detained by Air Force Intelligence officers.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.  There was little 
information on the welfare and whereabouts of hundreds of 
persons who have been held incommunicado for years (see Section 
l.d.).

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

Despite the existence of constitutional prohibitions and severe 
Penal Code penalties for abusers, the police and security 
forces continue to use torture systematically.  The authorities 
have used torture in both criminal and national security 
cases.  Released detainees and prisoners have reported that 
torture methods include the application of electric shocks on 
sensitive parts of the body; beatings, sometimes while the 
victim is suspended from the ceiling; and the use of a device 
that bends backwards to asphyxiate the victim and, in some 
cases, to fracture the spine.  The Government generally does 
not respond to allegations of torture and seldom punishes 
offending officials.

For the first time in memory, the Government prosecuted 
security officers for abuse.  It convicted more than 40 
officers for physically abusing or using excessive force 
against detainees--including abuse that caused an undetermined 
number of deaths.  The victims in all these cases were 
suspected criminal felons.  However, there were no known cases 
in which the Government investigated or prosecuted security 
officials for abusing detainees arrested for political or 
national security offenses.  This failure has created a climate 
of impunity which encourages the continuation of the abuse.

Prison conditions are poor.  Prisons are old and overcrowded, 
and health services and sanitation facilities inadequate.  
Conditions for most national security prisoners are markedly 
worse than those for common criminals.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Although the Penal Code provides for safeguards against 
arbitrary arrest and detention, the Emergency Law, which 
authorizes the Government to conduct "preventive" arrests, 
overrides these provisions.  Under the Emergency Law, arrests 
are generally carried out in secret, and suspects are detained 
incommunicado for prolonged periods without charge or trial and 
are denied the right to a judicial determination for the 
pretrial detention.  The Emergency Law also authorizes the 
Government to arrest persons for economic crimes.

Detainees have no legal redress for false arrest.  Security 
forces usually do not provide detainees' families with 
information on their welfare or location of detention.  
Consequently, many disappeared persons are believed to be in 
long-term incommunicado detention.  The authorities often 
release detainees without charge or explanation.

Since 1991 the Government has continued to release prisoners, 
many of whom were detainees held without charge.  The exact 
number is not known because the Government does not make a 
public accounting of persons granted amnesty or otherwise 
released.  The Government may have released as many as 300 
detainees in 1994.

However, persons still in prolonged detention include members 
of the Ba'th Party, the Iraq Ba'th Party, the Party for 
Communist Action, the Syrian Communist Party, the Arab 
Socialist Union Party, the Nasserist Democratic Popular 
Organization, various Kurdish groups, and the Muslim 
Brotherhood.  Scores of doctors, health professionals, and 
engineers have been detained without trial since a mass arrest 
in 1980, and hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese citizens 
arrested in Lebanon and in Syria were detained without charge, 
although most were subsequently released.

The Government has exiled citizens in the past but there were 
no known instances in 1994.  The practice is not as extensive 
as it once was.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system is composed of the civil and criminal 
courts; the religious courts, which adjudicate matters of 
personal status such as divorce and inheritance; military 
courts; and the State Security Court, which tries cases 
involving national security charges, and the Economic Security 
Court.  Civil and criminal courts are organized under the 
Ministry of Justice.

Defendants in civil and criminal courts are entitled to the 
legal representation of their choice; the courts appoint 
lawyers for indigents; defendants are allowed to present 
evidence and confront their accusers; and trials are public, 
except for those involving juveniles or sex offenses.  Although 
defendants have the right to appeal, their appeal efforts are 
hampered because the courts do not provide verbatim transcripts 
of cases--only summaries prepared by the presiding judges.  
There are no juries:  verdicts are rendered by the trial judge.

A public prosecutor may order suspected felons held in 
prearraignment detention.  At the arraignment, the judge may 
dismiss the charges or refer the case to a criminal court.  
There is a system of bail.

In noncontroversial cases, courts are normally free of 
governmental coercion, although high-ranking officials may 
exert influence at times.  However, a government minister was 
apparently removed from his position for interfering in a case.

The High Constitutional Court is empowered to rule only on the 
constitutionality of laws and decrees.  It does not hear 
appeals from the civil or criminal courts.  However, criminal 
and civil cases may be appealed, first, to a provincial appeals 
court and, ultimately, to the Court of Cassation.

The criminal justice system is backlogged:  many criminal 
suspects are held in pretrial detention for months.  The 
bribery of judges has become more prevalent in recent years.

The Economic Security Court tries persons prosecuted for 
violating the foreign exchange laws as well as for other 
financial crimes.  Defendants in such trials are not accorded 
due process.  The trials are widely believed to be subject to 
executive branch interference.  Some lawyers have refused to 
defend clients in the Economic Security Court because they 
purportedly believe the verdicts have been predetermined.

Defendants in the State Security Court are not granted due 
process.  Most trials are closed; the judges appoint the 
defense lawyers who are not permitted sufficient opportunity to 
consult with their clients or examine witnesses; the courts do 
not order medical examinations in cases of alleged torture; 
court proceedings and sentences are not made public; and 
defendants do not have the right to appeal.  All sentences are 
reviewed by the Minister of Interior in his capacity of 
Military Governor, who may ratify, nullify, or change 
sentences; however, the President may also intervene in the 
review process.  Although the State Security Court has 
acquitted some defendants, the outcomes of most trials are 
determined by top political leaders.

The Government tried hundreds of persons in State Security 
Courts in 1994, many of whom were imprisoned for more than 10 
years.  Most of the charges related to membership in banned 
political groups.  Between 1992 and 1994, the State Security 
Court tried more than 275 defendants, sentencing 200 and 
acquitting 75.  The Government reportedly has failed to release 
from detention some of those who were acquitted.

The Government denies that it detains political prisoners.  
However, it has tried, convicted, and imprisoned many people 
for attempting to exercise such fundamental rights as the 
freedom of speech and association.  The Government maintains 
that these people either engaged in subversive activities or 
were members of subversive organizations.  Such prisoners were 
convicted in trials that fall far short of internationally 
accepted standards of due process.  According to a Western 
press report, the Government in January 1995 released three 
former Baath Party officials--Fawzi Rida, Muhammed Id Ashawi, 
and Abd Al-Hamid Miqdad.  The three had reportedly been 
detained without charge or trial for nearly 25 years.

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

Although laws provide for the freedom from arbitrary 
interference, the Emergency Law authorizes the police to enter 
homes or conduct searches without warrants in national security 
cases.

The authorities arbitrarily set up security checkpoints on 
streets and roads.  At these sites, security officials search 
persons and vehicles without warrants, looking for weapons, 
drugs, subversive literature, and smuggled goods.

The security services selectively monitor telephone 
conversations and facsimile transmissions and interfere with 
the mail.  In some cases, censors have prevented the delivery 
to private citizens of foreign human rights publications.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to express 
their opionions freely in speech and in writing.  However, the 
Government restricts this right significantly.  It permits no 
spoken or printed criticism of the President or the legitimacy 
of the regime and strictly controls the dissemination of 
information.  Persons violating these restrictions are subject 
to arrest.  The Government has imprisoned several journalists 
for years for failing to observe press restrictions.

The Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Culture and 
National Guidance censor the domestic and foreign press.  They 
prevent publication or distribution of any material regarded as 
threatening or embarrassing to the Government.  Commonly 
censored subjects include the Government's human rights record, 
allegations of official involvement in the Lebanese drug trade, 
and aspects of the Government's political and security role in 
Lebanon.  Censors remove from imported publications articles 
critical of the Government's role in Lebanon.

The Ministry of Culture and National Guidance censors fiction 
and nonfiction works, including films.  Censorship is stricter 
for materials in Arabic.  Censors remove material critical of 
the Government, offensive to any of Syria's religious groups, 
too graphic in its description of sex, unfavorable to the Arab 
cause in the Middle East conflict, or partial to sectarianism. 
Censorship also affects films available at foreign cultural 
centers.

The Government or the Ba'th Party owns and operates the radio 
and television companies and the newspaper publishing houses.  
There are no privately owned newspapers.  The Ministry of 
Information censors the televised news programs to ensure they 
follow the government line.  The Government does interfere with 
radio or television broadcasts from neighboring countries.

The law prohibits citizens from owning satellite receiving 
dishes.  In early 1994, security forces began to confiscate 
satellite-dish components but later halted the practice.  
Although ownership remains illegal, citizens resumed installing 
satellite dishes without any apparant government action.  
However, in November the Government announced that it would 
fully implement the ban on private dishes and create a monopoly 
to distribute satellite programs to selected consumers.

Nonetheless, there was greater openness in 1994 in the media's 
coverage of regional developments, including the peace 
process.  The Government aired extensive coverage of the peace 
agreement reached between Arab parties and Israel, e.g., the 
signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.   The 
Government also permitted more media criticism of government 
performance.  Several newspaper articles highlighted government 
malfeasance and low-level, but not high-level, corruption.

Public school teachers are not permitted to express ideas 
contrary to government policy, although authorities allow 
somewhat greater freedom of expression at the university level.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

This freedom does not exist.  Citizens may not hold public 
meetings unless they obtain permission from the Ministry of 
Interior.  The Government or Ba'th Party organizes most 
demonstrations.  The Government applies the restriction on 
public assembly in the Palestinian refugee camps.

The Government regards all private associations as illegal 
unless they are duly registered with the Government.  
Unregistered groups may not hold meetings, and the authorities 
do not allow the establishment of independent political 
parties.  It usually grants registration to groups not engaged 
in political activity.

In 1980 the Government dissolved several professional 
associations after some of their members staged a strike and 
called for an end to the state of emergency.  Security forces 
arrested an undetermined number of strikers and sympathizers.  
Many of these people remain in detention without trial or are 
being tried in the State Security Court.  The associations have 
since been reconstituted, but the Government strictly controls 
their activities.  Any association must notify the Ba'th Party 
of its scheduled meetings.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Citizens enjoy a considerable degree of religious freedom.  
Although nearly two-thirds of the population is Sunni Muslim, 
there is no state religion.  However, the Constitution requires 
that the President be Muslim.

Most religious groups, including the remaining 300-member 
Jewish community, are free to practice their faiths.  All 
religions and sects must register with the Government, which 
monitors fundraising and requires permits for all meetings by 
religious groups, except for worship.  The permits are 
routinely granted.  Non-Muslims may operate schools and 
religious training facilities,and maintain links with 
coreligionists abroad.  The Government prohibits the Jehovah's 
Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists from organizing as 
churches and from owning church property.  Followers practice 
their religion in private homes.

Foreign missionaries are permitted to preach and practice.  
Although no law prohibits non-Muslims from proselytizing 
Muslims, the Government discourages such activity.  The 
publication of religious material is subject to the same 
censorship as secular material.

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

The Government restricts travel near the Golan Heights and 
occasionally near the borders with Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq.  
Travel to Israel is illegal.

Citizens require government permission to travel abroad.  The 
Government refuses permission to anyone thought likely to 
express views contrary to its policies.  The authorities may 
prosecute any person found attempting to emigrate or travel 
abroad without official permission, or suspected of having 
visited Israel illegally.

Women over the age of 18 have the legal right to travel without 
the permission of male relatives, but in practice the husband 
may file a request with the Ministry of Interior to prohibit 
his wife's departure from Syria.  Similarly, a father may 
request that the Ministry prohibit travel abroad by unmarried 
daughters, even if they are over 18 years of age.

In 1994 the Government fulfilled its commitment to grant exit 
permits to Jews who sought one.  In the past, the Government 
required Jews to post bond before traveling abroad.  It has 
abolished that requirement.

There are some 360,000 Palestinian refugees living in Syria, 
some of whom were born in the country.  These refugees 
sometimes encounter difficulties in obtaining travel documents 
and re-entering Syria after traveling abroad.  The Government 
closely monitors Palestinians who are not residents in Syria, 
including those with third-country passports.  The authorities 
sometimes refuse such travelers entry into Syria.

The number of non-Palestinian refugees assisted by the United 
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) dropped to less 
than 4,600 from some 5,500 in 1993.  Some 3,500 of these are 
Iraqis, and over 900 are Somalis.  The UNHCR estimated that 
another 34,000 non-Palestinian refugees--including 31,000 
Iraqis and 2,000 Somalis--were in Syria but did not receive 
UNHCR assistance.

There were reports that security forces detained some persons 
seeking aslyum and reportedly forced some--in particular 
Somali, Egyptian, and Libyan nationals--to return to their 
countries where they face possible abuse from their 
Governments.  Such reports were unconfirmed.  In general, the 
Government provides information on asylum seekers to the UNHCR.

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

Citizens do not have the ability to change their government 
legally and peacefully.  The President and his senior aides, 
particularly those responsible for internal and external 
security, ultimately make all basic decisions on political and 
economic life.  In recent years, the ruling Ba'th Party, which 
is dominated by the military, has served principally to 
legitimize President Asad's rule.

Although the regime seeks to deemphasize ethnic and religious 
sectarianism, members of President Asad's own sect, the Alawis, 
hold most important military and security positions.  President 
Asad's fourth 7-year term expires in March 1999.

An election was held in August for the 250-seat Parliament, or 
People's Council.  Members serve 4-year terms.  The Parliament 
has the constitutional power to initiate laws but has not yet 
done so.  To date, it merely approves or revises draft 
legislation proposed by the executive branch.

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

There are no local human rights groups:  the Government does 
not permit the establishment of such organizations.

In October the Government allowed representatives from Amnesty 
International (AI) to visit Damascus where they met various 
ministers and other officials.  The AI delegation described its 
discussions as the "first ever substantive talks with Syrian 
authorities covering all its human rights concerns."  The 
delegation met with the president of the State Security Court 
but was not able to observe State Security Court trials.  
During its visit, AI raised with the Government the cases of 
over 1,000 victims of human rights violations over the past 25 
years, including political prisoners, detainees without trial, 
and people who have disappeared.  Earlier in October, 
government ministers also received a representative from Human 
Rights Watch, the first time that organization has visited 
Syria.

As a matter of policy, the Government denies that it commits 
any human rights abuses and does not permit representatives 
from international humanitarian organizations to visit 
prisons.  In instances in which foreigners are arrested, the 
authorities sometimes delay or deny prison visits by embassy 
officials.

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

The Constitution provides for equal rights and equal 
opportunity for all citizens.  In practice, membership in the 
Ba'th Party or close familial relations with a prominent Ba'th 
Party member is important for prospering.  Party connections 
can pave the way for entrance into better elementary and 
secondary schools, access to lucrative employment, and greater 
power in the Government and the military.

     Women

Historically the Government has sought to overcome 
traditionally conservative and religiously inspired 
discriminatory attitudes toward women.  It encourages women's 
education and has expressed its intention to align its laws 
more closely with international conventions on equal 
opportunity for women.

Women constitute some 10 percent of the Members of Parliament 
and the diplomatic corps, 6 percent of judges, almost 10 
percent of lawyers, 57 percent of teachers below university 
level, and 20 percent of university professors.

Nonetheless, social attitudes and practices continue to 
discriminate against women.  Matters of personal status, such 
as divorce and inheritance, are adjudicated by courts 
associated with the various religious denominations.  Muslim 
women face discrimination in such cases under Islamic law which 
grants women a smaller share of inheritance than male heirs.

Spousal abuse against women occurs, but conservative social 
mores discourage any public discussion of the issue.  There is 
no evidence that spousal abuse is widespread, but there are no 
official statistics.  Battered women have the legal right to 
seek redress in court, but few do so because of the social 
stigma attached to such an action.  The Syrian Women's 
Federation offers services to battered wives to remedy 
individual family problems.

     Children

The law stresses the need to protect children, and education is 
mandatory up to the sixth grade, with tuition-free education 
provided at higher levels.  However, mandatory education is not 
strictly enforced in rural areas where there are often not 
enough schools.

The Government provides health care to children at a nominal 
fee, although the quality of the care varies in different 
regions.  There is no pattern of societal or familial violence 
against children, which is discouraged by tough legal penalties 
as well as social stigma.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Government has placed limits on the use and teaching of 
Kurdish language, Kurdish cultural expression and, at times, 
the celebration of Kurdish festivals.  Kurds lost seats in the 
parliamentary election.  There were claims that the Government 
manipulated the elections of some Kurdish candidates who 
allegedly were critical of government policy towards the Kurds 
and/or supported Kurdish nationalist aims.  The authorities 
reportedly detained some citizens for protesting the 
Government's policy towards the Kurds.

There is a credible estimate that previous governments withdrew 
the nationality of 90,000 to 120,000 Kurds during the 1960's.  
The current Government apparently stopped this practice, but 
has not restored nationality to those who lost it.

     Religious Minorities

There is no state religion and a significant amount of 
religious tolerance.  Religion is occasionally a factor in 
determining the opportunities available to Syrian citizens.  
For example, members of the President's religious sect, the 
Alawis, generally enjoy preference for high-level security and 
military positions.

The few remaining Jews are generally barred from government and 
military service.  They are the only minority group whose 
passports and identity cards note their religion.

     People with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against the disabled and seeks 
to integrate them into the public sector work force.  However, 
implementation is lax.  Regulations reserving 2 percent of 
government and public-sector jobs for the handicapped are not 
rigorously implemented.  The disabled do not have recourse to 
the courts regarding job discrimination.  There are no laws 
mandating access to public buildings for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Although the Constitution provides for this right, workers are 
not free to establish unions independently of the Government's 
bureaucractic structure.  All unions must belong to the General 
Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) which is dominated by the 
Ba'th Party and is actually a part of the State's bureaucratic 
structure.  The Government would not permit the establishment 
of an alternative trade union federation.

The GFTU is an information transmission belt between political 
decisionmakers and the workers.  The GFTU leadership transmits 
instructions downward to the unions and workers but also 
conveys information to decisionmakers about worker conditions 
and needs.  The GFTU provides the Government with opinions on 
legislation, organizes workers, and formulates rules for 
various unions.  The GFTU president is a senior member of the 
Ba'th Party.  He and his deputy attend Cabinet meetings on 
economic affairs.  The GFTU controls nearly all aspects of 
union activity.  At the end of 1994, legislation was pending 
before Parliament that would grant individual unions more 
authority to adopt their own bylaws.

There were no reported strikes.  Although strikes are not 
legally prohibited, workers are inhibited from striking because 
of previous government repression.  In 1980 the security forces 
arrested many union and professional association officials who 
planned a national strike.  Many of those arrested remain in 
detention without charge or are being tried in the State 
Security Court.

The GFTU is affiliated with the International Confederation of 
Arab Trade Unions.

In 1992 the U.S. Government suspended Syria's eligibility for 
tariff preferences under the U.S. Generalized System of 
Preferences because the Government failed to take steps to 
afford internationally recognized worker rights to Syrian 
workers.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

This right does not exist in any meaningful sense.  Government 
representatives are part of the bargaining process in the 
public sector.  In state-owned companies, union representatives 
negotiate hours, wages, and conditions of employment with 
representatives of the employers and the supervising ministry.  
Workers serve on the boards of directors of public enterprises.

The law provides for collective bargaining in the private 
sector, but any such agreement between labor and management 
must be ratified by the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, 
who effectively has the power of veto.  The Committee of 
Experts of the International Labor Organization (ILO) has long 
noted the Government's continuing resistance to abolish the 
Minister's power over collective contracts.

Unions have the right to litigate disputes over work contracts 
and other workers' interests with employers and may ask for 
binding arbitration.  In practice, labor officials and 
management settle most disputes without resort to legal 
remedies or arbitration.  Management has the right to request 
arbitration, but this is seldom exercised.  Arbitration usually 
occurs when a worker initiates a dispute over wages or 
severance pay.

Since the unions are absorbed into the Government's 
bureaucratic structure, they are protected by law from 
antiunion discrimination.  There were no reports of antiunion 
discrimination.

There are no unions in the seven free trade zones.  Firms in 
the zones are exempt from the laws and regulations governing 
hiring and firing, although they must observe some provisions 
on health and safety, hours, and sick and annual leave.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

There is no law prohibiting forced or compulsory labor.  There 
were no reports of forced or compulsory labor involving 
children or foreign or domestic workers.  Forced labor may be 
imposed as a punishment for some convicts.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is 14 in the public sector and 
12 in the private sector.  In all cases, parental permission is 
required for children under age 16.  The law prohibits children 
from working at night.  The Ministry of Labor and Social 
Affairs is responsible for enforcing the minimum age 
requirements but does not have enough labor investigators.  
Nonetheless, child labor is common.  The Ministry is not able 
to monitor compliance with the child labor laws in rural areas 
or in small family businesses which employ young children.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Minister Labor of and Social Affairs is responsible for 
enforcing minimum wage levels in the public and private 
sectors.  Following reductions in subsidies for foodstuffs, the 
Government in April raised the minimum wage to $50 a month in 
the public sector and $44 a month in private sector.  A 
committee of labor, management, and government representatives 
submits recommended changes in the minimum wage to the 
Minister.  The minimum wage does not provide for an adequate 
standard of living for a worker and his family.  As a result, 
many workers take additional jobs or are supported by their 
extended families.

The statutory workweek is 6 days of 6 hours each, but in some 
cases a 9-hour workday is permitted. The laws mandate a 24-hour 
rest day per week.

Rules and regulations severely limit the ability of an employer 
to dismiss employees without due cause.  Dismissed employees 
have the right to appeal before a committee of representatives 
from the union, management, the Ministry of Labor and Social 
Affairs, and the appropriate municipality.  Such committees 
usually find in favor of the employee.

The law does not protect temporary workers who are not subject 
to regulations on minimum wages.  Small private firms and 
businesses employ such workers to avoid the costs associated 
with hiring permanent employees.

The law mandates safety standards in all sectors, and managers 
are expected to implement them fully.  In practice, there is 
little enforcement without worker complaints, which occur 
infrequently despite Government efforts to post notices on 
safety rights and regulations.  Large companies, such as oil 
field contractors, also employ safety engineers.

The ILO has noted that a provision in the Labor Code allowing 
employers to keep workers at the workplace for as many as 11 
hours a day might lead to abuse.  However, there have been no 
reports of such abuses.

Officials from the Ministries of Health and Labor inspect work 
sites for compliance with health and safety standards.  Such 
inspections appear to be haphazard, apart from those conducted 
in hotels and other facilities which cater to foreigners.  
Workers may lodge complaints about health and safety conditions 
with special committees established to adjudicate such cases.


(###)

[end of document]

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