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Title: Cape Verde Human Rights Practices, 1995 Author: U.S. Department of State Date: March 1996 CAPE VERDE Cape Verde is a parliamentary democracy in which constitutional powers are shared between President Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro, an independent, and Prime Minister Carlos Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, and his party, the Movement for Democracy (MPD). The MPD dominates the National Assembly in which only two of the four official political parties are represented. The Government controls the police, which have primary responsibility for maintenance of law and order. There were no reported human rights abuses committed by security forces. Cape Verde has a market-based economy but little industry and few exploitable natural resources. The country has a long history of economically driven emigration, primarily to Western Europe and the United States, and receipts from Cape Verdeans abroad remain an important source of national income. Even in years of optimum rainfall, the country can produce food for only 25 percent of the population, resulting in heavy reliance on international food aid. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the law and judiciary provide effective means of dealing with instances of individual abuse. However, societal discrimination and in particular domestic violence and discrimination against women continued to be serious problems. The mistreatment of children remained a serious problem, exacerbated by a poor economic situation which placed stress on large families in securing food, water, and other necessities. Although the Government supported legislation to ameliorate these problems, it failed to adopt, implement, and enforce policies designed to address the most critical challenges. There were instances of media self- censorship. 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 politically motivated disappearances. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The Constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that officials employed them. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile The law stipulates that authorities bring charges before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. Police may not make arrests without a court order unless a person is caught in the act of committing a felony. In exceptional cases, and with the concurrence of a court official, authorities may detain persons without charge for up to 5 days. These laws are observed in practice. The Ministry of Justice has 40 days to prepare for trial in state security cases, and may detain persons until trial or for a period not to exceed 1 year. There is a functioning system of bail. There were no reports of security detentions or forced exile. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial. A judiciary independent of the executive branch generally provides due process rights, but there are serious delays owing to understaffing. The judicial system is composed of the Supreme Court and the regional courts. There are five Supreme Court judges, including one appointed by the President, one appointed by the National Assembly, and three appointed by the High Council of Magistrates. Judges are independent and may not belong to a political party. Defendants are presumed to be innocent; have the right to public, nonjury trial; to counsel; to present witnesses; and to appeal verdicts. Free counsel is provided for the indigent. Regional courts adjudicate minor disputes on the local level in rural areas. The Ministry of Justice and Labor appoints local judges, who are usually prominent local citizens. Defendants may appeal regional court decisions to the Supreme Court. The right to an expeditious trial is constrained by a seriously overburdened judicial system. A backlog of cases routinely leads to trial delays of 6 months. There were no reports of political prisoners. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The Constitution prohibits such practices, and government authorities respect these prohibitions in practice. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution provides for freedom to express ideas by words, images, or any other means, and for freedom of the press without censorship. The Government generally respected these freedoms in practice. Nevertheless, there was increased criticism by independent political figures of the performance of the state-controlled television, radio, and print media for their failure to exercise vigorously their monitoring role in a multiparty system. Journalists are independent of the Government and are not required to reveal their sources. However, self-censorship within government- controlled media, including the national television and radio networks as well as the state-owned newspaper Novo Jornal, influences media criticism of the Government. Journalists in government enterprises have also been demoted or dismissed allegedly for exceeding the bounds of accepted criticism. In the case of opposition media, particularly newspapers, government officials have sought to use the country's strict libel laws to attack critics for perceived unjustified criticism. Independent journalists and their newspapers were, however, successful in the courts in defending their actions. In one case, a court rejected the accusations of an influential government minister against the newspaper of the major opposition political party. In a second legal proceeding involving an ex-director of the same newspaper, the individual was exonerated of two criminal complaints and found guilty of one charge. The case is under appeal. In two other cases challenging dismissals from employment with state-owned media companies, journalists were successful in gaining compensation against the national radio network and the predecessor to the government-controlled newspaper. Finally, the former president of the association of journalists instituted legal action to overturn his dismissal from his position. Several important cases are pending which, upon resolution, will have a significant impact on press freedom. Government authorization is not needed to establish newspapers, other printed publications, or electronic media. Independent media outlets experienced no direct pressure in their daily operations or business activities. For example, the Catholic radio station signed an agreement with the British Broadcasting Corporation to broadcast its Portuguese language newscast. The national radio station broadcasts live National Assembly sessions and was harshly criticized for announcing that it was considering reducing such coverage. Independent newspapers and electronic media, aside from the examples cited above, strongly and consistently criticize government policies and officials. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and association without authorization and without harassment by the authorities. Throughout the year, labor organizations, opposition political parties, civic action groups, and numerous others exercised this right without government interference or objection. Opposition political parties routinely ignored the legal requirement that officials be advised before the holding of demonstrations and experienced no retaliatory or punitive measures from the Government. c. Freedom of Religion The Constitution provides for the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. It also prohibits the State from imposing religious beliefs and practices. The Government respects these rights in practice. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation The law provides citizens with the right to travel and establish residence without government restrictions. The Constitution provides for repatriation, and the Government respects this in practice. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government Citizens exercised this right in 1991, after 15 years of one-party rule. An opposition party won the country's first free legislative and presidential elections and peacefully assumed power. Promulgation of the new Constitution in 1992 consolidated this change. The critical second round of multiparty elections for the National Assembly was held in December, resulting in a resounding victory for the governing MPD party of Prime Minister Veiga. Municipal and presidential elections were scheduled for January and February 1996, respectively. With its margin in victory the MPD could govern virtually without the need to consult the two opposition parties represented in the Assembly, should it elect to do so. Observers saw the election results as a further repudiation of the discredited one-party government set up after independence from Portugal in 1975, which had clung to power until the first free, fair elections in 1991. The Constitution provides for separation of powers. Cabinet ministers are not required to be members of the National Assembly, but they are individually subject to parliamentary confirmation. Collectively, they must retain the support of a parliamentary majority. The President may dismiss the Government with the approval of the Council of the Republic, which is composed of the president of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister, the president of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the President of the Regional Affairs Council, and four private members. Referendums may be held under specified circumstances but may not challenge individual political rights and liberties or the right of opposition parties to exist and function freely. There are no restrictions in law or practice regarding the rights of women or minorities to vote or to participate in the political process. Women comprise 7.6 percent of the deputies elected to the National Assembly. The two female ministers in the Cabinet of the Prime Minister represent 13 percent of the ministerial positions. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights There are two private human rights groups in Cape Verde--the National Commission of the Rights of Man and the Cape Verdean League for Human Rights. No major human rights organizations conducted investigations in Cape Verde during the year. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, disability, language, or social status. However, the Government does not effectively enforce all its provisions, resulting in ongoing discrimination, particularly against women and children. Women Domestic violence against women, including wife beating, remains common, particularly in rural areas. Victims rarely report crimes such as rape and spousal abuse to the police. Neither the Government nor women's organizations have addressed directly the issue of violence against women. Women continue to face discrimination in several ways. Despite constitutional prohibitions against sex discrimination and provisions for full equality, including equal pay for equal work, discrimination continues. Women experience difficulties in obtaining certain types of employment. Although they are often paid less than men, they are making modest inroads in the professions. The Constitution prohibits discrimination against women in inheritance, family, and custody matters. However, largely because of illiteracy, most women are unaware of their rights. Women are often reluctant to seek redress of domestic disputes in the courts. The Organization of Cape Verdean Women alleges disparate treatment in inheritance matters despite laws calling for equal rights. Women comprise 52.7 percent of the general population, but only 36.8 percent of the employed work force. Among those considered unemployed within the labor pool actively seeking employment, government figures indicate that women make up 54.7 percent of those out of compensated employment. Despite these dire statistics, employment opportunities for women are improving, as evidenced by the increasing presence of women in the upper echelons of government and among the legal and medical professions. With the impetus gained from the preparatory work for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, women's organizations launched new efforts to improve the plight of poor and economically disadvantaged women, holding several symposiums and conferences. They demanded new laws protecting women against violence and abuse and the enforcement of constitutional provisions establishing equal rights. In March a group of women incorporated the Cape Verdean Association for the Protection of the Family, whose stated goals were the promotion of the rights of the family, protection of the mother and child, women's health care (including the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases), and the promotion of family planning. According to women's groups, large, unplanned families represent the main cause of poverty and lack of job opportunity for women. Children Child abuse is a continuing problem. Although the Government may remove children from abusive parents and place them in orphanages, it seldom took such actions. The Government maintained its effort to highlight the costs to society of such mistreatment and to promote the legal protection of abused minors. The government-controlled newspaper published a multipage expose on the plight of abandoned children left to roam the streets, noting that such situations lead to violent abuse of children, crime, and prostitution. Local experts, mental health professionals, and social workers have called on government officials and the larger population to reject an indifferent attitude and strive to reduce and eliminate the problem. In conjunction with the United Nations Children's Fund, the Cape Verdean Institute for Minors published the book "Legal Protection of Children" as a working document for government officials and others, setting out the laws and rights pertaining to the protection of minors and the social and governmental institutions with responsibility for enforcing those rights. As a result of the devastating effects of the cholera epidemic, the Government focused more attention on preventive treatment, especially regarding the health care of children. It instituted a broad based immunization campaign for young children. Throughout the year the official media broadcast and diffused public service messages imploring mothers to seek prenatal care for their babies. People with Disabilities The Government does not mandate access to public buildings or services for the disabled. It does provide transportation (a combination wheelchair and three-wheel motor scooter) for handicapped persons. Physically disabled persons are not subject to discrimination in employment or education. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association Workers are legally free to form and to join unions without government authorization or restriction. There are two umbrella union associations: the Council of Free Labor Unions, formed after the change in government and composed of 11 unions with about 7,000 members, and the National Union of Cape Verde Workers, formed by the former ruling party but operating independently, composed of 13 unions with about 15,000 members. The Government does not interfere with the activities of these organizations, but both suffer from a shortage of funds. The Constitution provides union members with the right to strike, and the Government respects this right. By law, an employer must reinstate a worker fired unjustly. Unions are free to affiliate internationally and have ties with African and international trade union organizations. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The Constitution provides for the right to organize and operate without hindrance and to sign collective work contracts. Workers and management in the small private sector, as well as in the public sector, reach agreement through collective bargaining. As the country's largest employer, the Government continues to play the dominant role by setting wages in the civil service. It does not fix wages for the private sector, but salary levels for civil servants provide the basis for wage negotiations in the private sector. A 1991 legislative decree bans antiunion discrimination by employers, with fines for offenders. There were no reported cases of such discrimination. There are no export processing zones. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor Forced labor is forbidden by law and is not practiced. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The legal minimum age for employment is 14 years. The law prohibits children under the age 16 from working at night, more than 7 hours per day, or in establishments where toxic products are produced, but the Government rarely enforces the law. In practice, the Ministry of Justice and Labor enforces minimum age laws with limited success, and only in the urban, formal sectors of the economy. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work There are no established minimum wage rates in the private sector. Large urban private employers link their minimum wages to those paid to civil servants, which for an entry level worker is $180 (15,000 escudos) per month. The majority of jobs pay wages insufficient to provide a worker and family a decent standard of living; therefore, most workers also rely on second jobs, extended family help, and subsistence agriculture. The maximum legal workweek for adults is 44 hours. While large employers generally respect these regulations, many domestic servants and rural workers work longer hours. The Director General of Labor conducts periodic inspections to enforce proper labor practices and imposes fines on private enterprises which are not in conformity with the law. However, the Government does not systematically enforce labor laws and much of the labor force does not enjoy their protection. There are few industries that employ heavy or dangerous equipment, and work-related accidents are rare. (###)
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