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Title:  Sierra Leone Human Rights Practices, 1995   
Author:  U.S. Department of State    
Date:  March 1996    
 
 
 
 
                            SIERRA LEONE 
 
 
Sierra Leone is a republic governed by a military junta, the National 
Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC).  The NPRC, which rules by decree, 
seized power in 1992 in a military coup which ousted then-President 
Joseph Momoh.  Captain Valentine E.M. Strasser was chairman of the NPRC, 
Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and Secretary of 
State for Defense throughout the year.  He was deposed in a palace coup 
in January 1996.  The 4-year civil war and the collapse of law and order 
have caused more than 14,000 deaths, including an estimated 3,600 in 
1995.  The war has also forced an estimated 2.4 million persons, more 
than 50 percent of the population, into exile in refugee camps or 
facilities for the internally displaced. 
 
Under the NPRC, the 1991 Constitution remained in force but with the 
suspension of some of its provisions.  In June the NPRC lifted the 10-
year ban on political parties, but at the same time issued a decree 
banning 57 individuals from political activity for a period of 10 years.  
Elections were planned for February 1996, and at year's end, the 
Government and the Interim National Election Commission were seeking 
international donor support to finance voter registration and elections. 
 
The Sierra Leone Military Forces (RSLMF), supported by Western Area 
Security Patrols and the regular police force, are responsible for both 
external and internal security.  The RSLMF, supported by the Nigerian 
and Guinean armies and a private South African mercenary firm Executive 
Outcomes, continued active operations against rebel forces, known as the 
Revolutionary United Front (RUF), led by Foday Sankoh.  The RUF claims 
to seek the overthrow of the NPRC.  The Government has acknowledged that 
in addition to its operations against the RUF, it must also contend with 
renegade RSLMF soldiers and some civilians. 
 
While the RSLMF made significant progress in operations against the RUF, 
it sustained casualties in numerous bloody attacks on villages and 
vehicles in the Eastern and Southern provinces, and in some areas of the 
Northern province.  During the first half of the year, rebel forces 
unsuccessfully attacked villages on the outskirts of Freetown.  In 
October the RSLMF briefly retook Kailahun district in the east, but lost 
it in an RUF counterattack after less than 2 weeks' occupation.  There 
were reported human rights abuses by all parties to the internal 
conflict, including summary executions and torture.  Some members of the 
police and military also committed human rights abuses outside the war 
zone.  A number of RSLMF personnel, including officers, were court-
martialed for offenses ranging from theft to murder. 
 
Sierra Leone is a very poor country.  Before the war, more than 70 
percent of the 4.5 million citizens were involved in some aspect of 
agriculture, mainly subsistence farming.  Although the country is rich 
in minerals, including rutile (titanium dioxide), diamonds, gold, and 
bauxite, official receipts from legal exports of gold and diamonds have 
decreased over recent years, and rutile and bauxite mining ceased at the 
beginning of the year due to rebel activity.  Significant portions of 
the gold and diamonds are smuggled abroad.  Although Government forces 
with the assistance of Executive Outcomes recaptured the rutile mine and 
the major diamond producing areas from rebel control by mid-year, 
Government revenues from the mineral sector were still far below 
preconflict levels. 
 
The Government's human rights record improved somewhat, although serious 
problems remain in certain areas.  Most abuses, including extrajudicial 
killings by RSLMF and rebel units, were committed chiefly, though not 
exclusively, in the area of armed conflict.  The NPRC lifted its ban on 
political parties but continued to maintain control over government, 
social affairs, and the judiciary.  Authorities continued to restrict 
freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association, but to a lesser 
degree than previously.  There were reports of disappearances, and 
security forces abused suspects during arrest and interrogation.  There 
were prolonged pretrial detentions and lengthy delays in trials.  
Citizens do not have the right to change their government.  
Discrimination and violence against women remain widespread, as does 
violence against children. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
Both government forces and RUF rebels engaged in these abuses.  
Government forces often tortured and killed suspected rebels.  There 
were reports that undisciplined military and other security personnel 
killed civilians while engaged in looting, robbery, and extortion (see 
Section 1.g.)  The military court-martialed two soldiers for murder in 
connection with looting.  It sentenced one to prison and dishonorable 
discharge from the army.  The Head of State had not yet confirmed this 
sentence.  At year's end, the court martial of the other was in 
progress.  Another soldier was found guilty of killing a fellow soldier 
in a drug-related incident and sentenced to death.  The Head of State 
had yet to confirm this sentence and she remains in custody.  Their 
trials were still in progress at year's end. 
 
In January RUF rebels attacked the Northern town of Kambia, reportedly 
killing 15 civilians, including the daughter of a local chief and a 
former policeman.  In March rebels summarily executed 18 relatives of a 
senior NPRC official in the Southern province.  In June an armed group 
of men attacked Port Loko, killing approximately 100-150 people.  In 
September and October, rebels in the Southern province near Bo 
reportedly barricaded villagers in their huts and burned them alive.  
The rebels also amputated the hands of several villagers and sent them 
to Bo with the message that this would now prevent them from voting (see 
Section l.g.). 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
Reports continued of disappearances of captured persons who were 
suspected to be rebels.  Senior NPRC and RSLMF officials have stated 
publicly and privately that suspected rebels, both military and 
civilian, are to be brought to army headquarters for intelligence 
interrogation.  During operations in the Southern province in September 
and October, the army captured more than 100 rebel combatants, 
incarcerating them at army headquarters in Freetown.  Guinean 
authorities arrested four high ranking RUF officials in November and 
turned them over to the RSLMF.  It held them at army headquarters at 
year's end. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
Although the Constitution prohibits torture, the police and military 
mistreated suspects during arrest and interrogation. Authorities 
sometimes beat detainees or mutilated them prior to incarceration or 
judicial proceedings.  Military personnel engaged in combat operations 
sometimes physically abused civilians (see Section l.g.).  The 
Government occasionally punished them for such abuses. 
 
The Government worked to improve the diet and medical care in prisons 
throughout the year, but conditions at times remained life threatening.  
Detainee cells often lack beds or toilet facilities.  Despite the 
authorities' attempts to relieve the situation, overcrowding is the norm 
at Freetown's Pademba Road prison.  In January the Government released 
76 inmates from the Eastern province who were suspected of being rebels.  
The Attorney General's office conducted an ongoing review of detentions 
at Pademba Road, an overcrowded prison whose conditions are of 
particular concern because shortcomings in the legal system often result 
in prolonged pretrial detention there.  Male and female inmates are 
imprisoned separately, but together with juveniles.  Homosexual rape is 
common. 
 
The Government continued to grant the International Committee of the Red 
Cross (ICRC) access to prisoners, including alleged rebels. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
In practice, the Government does not provide adequate safeguards against 
arbitrary or unjust detentions, nor for their formal review.  By law, 
after an initial 24-hour detention, detainees must have access to legal 
counsel, families, and medical care, but authorities rarely obey the law 
unless detainees can afford legal counsel to demand compliance.  In July 
authorities detained a teacher's union official and a journalist for 10 
days without charge; the union official for allegedly subversive speech 
at a press conference and the journalist for reporting it.  The 
Government did not detain other journalists who reported the same 
speech. 
 
Police and military officials have additional detention authority.  
Under NPRC decrees, higher-ranking police and military officials may 
arrest without warrant and detain indefinitely any person suspected of 
posing a threat to public safety.  In practice, soldiers do arrest or 
detain civilians without charge.  The military authorities do not 
formally notify relatives, but they do generally respond to inquiries.  
Arrested foreigners are often released but may not depart the country. 
 
The Government provides legal representation for the indigent only in 
cases of capital offenses.  Lack of counsel in other cases frequently 
leads to wrongful conviction.  Many indigent detainees are ignorant of 
their rights and assume, sometimes correctly, that law enforcement or 
judicial authorities will be paid by the accuser to rule against them.  
The Society for the Protection of Human Rights provides free legal 
counsel to some indigent detainees, and some local nongovernmental 
organizations (NGO's) provide counsel and advice to women concerning 
their rights. 
 
Nineteen of the 24 former Government officials who were placed under 
house arrest in 1994 for failing to repay funds the Government said they 
had embezzled while in office remained under house arrest.  The rest 
were released from house arrest, but were among the 57 individuals 
banned from political activity for 10 years (see Section 2.b.). 
 
The Government did not use exile.  However, some officials of the former 
regime chose to leave the country, while others remain abroad rather 
than return to face possible retribution.  In July 1994, the NPRC 
Attorney General resigned and went into self-imposed exile in England to 
protest the Government's imposition of the death penalty. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The NPRC can effectively control the judiciary.  There is strong 
evidence that favoritism plays a role in court decisions.  The NPRC, 
like governments that preceded it, employed special commissions of 
inquiry to circumvent the judiciary. 
 
There are three judicial systems:  regular courts; local or traditional 
courts; and courts-martial.  Courts-martial try only military cases.  
The regular court system is based on the British model and consists of a 
Supreme Court, an intermediate Court of Appeals, a High Court of 
Magistrates, and Magistrates' Courts.  There are criminal and civil 
courts.  Decisions by lower courts may be appealed in the high courts.  
There are delays of up to 5 years in bringing some cases to trial. 
 
Judges in the regular court system may serve until they reach the 
mandatory retirement age of 65, unless their appointment is revoked 
prior to that time.  There were no known instances of judges being fired 
or transferred for political reasons.  Elected indigenous leaders 
preside over the local courts and administer tribal law in civil cases, 
for example, dealing with family and property matters.  These local 
courts are often the only legal institutions in rural areas.  Fighting 
in the Eastern and Southern provinces severely hampered the functioning 
of the local court system in those areas. 
 
The court-martial system, based on British military codes and common 
law, provides for commander adjudication of minor offenses.  Soldiers 
accused of more serious offenses are transferred from field units to 
Headquarters.  A number of courts martial were convened against officers 
and enlisted personnel for looting, murder, and dereliction of duty.  In 
1994 a senior officer convicted of aiding the enemy was sentenced to 
death by the standing court martial.  The sentence, which is subject to 
review by the Head of State, has not been carried out. 
 
Minimum due process rights are not always respected.  Authorities 
sometimes beat detainees, and mutilate or otherwise punish them prior to 
incarceration or to a court hearing (see Section 1.c.).  In addition, 
the regular court system accepts and sanctions provisions of tribal, 
traditional, and Islamic law which discriminate against women and 
minorities. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
Although the Constitution prohibits arbitrary invasion of the home, the 
authorities still have broad authority under NPRC decrees to monitor 
actions or conversations within homes, to prevent a person from acting 
in a manner deemed prejudicial to public safety, to impose restrictions 
on employment or business, to control association or communication with 
other persons, and to interfere with correspondence. 
 
In practice, there were numerous occasions of abusive treatment of 
ordinary citizens by ill-disciplined soldiers and police, both within 
and outside the war zone.  These abuses included forced entry into 
homes, robberies, and assaults, some of which were fatal.  A number of 
soldiers accused of looting were court-martialed.  One lieutenant found 
guilty of looting was sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment.  Sixteen 
soldiers arrested for an attempted robbery were detained and awaited 
court-marital at year's end (see Section 1.e.). 
 
   g.   Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in 
Internal Conflicts 
 
There were serious violations of humanitarian law in the internal 
conflict throughout the war zone, chiefly summary executions of 
prisoners and noncombatants, and torture and killing of civilians.  
RSLMF forces continued to engage RUF forces, which at the outset of the 
conflict were supported in part by Charles Taylor's National Patriotic 
Front for Liberia, but now are entirely Sierra Leonean.  The RSLMF also 
fought bandits and groups of Sierra Leonean military deserters.  The 
conflict involves multiple ethnic groups and has resulted in an 
estimated 14,000 deaths since 1991.  Also, an estimated 1.7 to 2.1 
million Sierra Leoneans have been displaced internally or are living as 
refugees in neighboring countries because of the war.  Guinean and 
Nigerian troops serve with the Sierra Leonean military.   
 
Government troops committed many abuses against suspected rebels and 
their noncombatant supporters, including summary executions of 
prisoners.  The RSLMF engaged in public humiliation and torture of 
captives, including disfigurement, beating, and parading captives naked, 
and sometimes displayed human skulls as trophies.  In its air operations 
against RUF targets, the Government destroyed some villages and killed 
an undetermined number of civilians. 
 
The rebels also committed numerous abuses of international humanitarian 
law against civilians, RSLMF soldiers, and their mercenary advisors.  In 
a February attack, the military aide to the Head of State, the 
expatriate commander of the mercenary advisory group, and several other 
individuals were killed by rebels in an ambush.  None of the bodies was 
ever recovered, and reports indicated later that they were mutilated and 
put on display in rebel-held areas. 
 
In March RUF rebels summarily executed 18 relatives of a senior NPRC 
official in the Southern province.  In a June attack at Port Loko in 
which rebels killed approximately 100 to 150 people, rebels used the 
bodies of slain villagers as barricades across the road entering the 
town.  Among the rebels, most ethnic groups are represented, but Mende 
and Kissy groups predominate.  Attacks by armed men on vehicles along 
the main roads from Freetown, particularly the road to Bo in the south 
and Kenema in the Eastern province, severely restricted delivery of 
relief food and other supplies to displaced persons in areas outside 
Freetown.  The Government did not formally authorize the ICRC to deliver 
food assistance to rebel-controlled areas, but did not prevent them from 
doing so. 
 
There appears to have been little ethnically motivated violence in the 
hostilities to date. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of speech, the Government 
abridges freedom of expression if it deems national security to be 
endangered.  Criticizing government leaders or offending the dignity of 
the state are criminal offenses.  Although the military regime can 
severely restrict freedom of speech, there was nonetheless some 
criticism of the Government in the press and in other forums (see 
Section 1.d.).  The Government has not always attempted to halt these 
challenges, although the Government detained and questioned a journalist 
who printed remarks from a press conference criticizing the Government 
for hiring South African mercenaries to fight the war, holding him for 
10 days without charge (see Section 1.d.).  A theater director reported 
that the inspector general of police refused to permit the staging of a 
production because the names of some characters were politically 
sensitive.  Three other theater directors claimed that the police 
demanded to see scripts of their productions before granting them 
performance permits.  A seditious libel case brought by the Government 
against employees of a newspaper which printed a controversial editorial 
in October 1993 was settled in August.  The court found the defendants 
guilty, fined and released them. 
 
Despite strict registration and publication requirements, newsprint 
shortages, and a shortage of trained and professional journalists, there 
were 13 newspapers at year's end. 
 
Journalists continued to suffer threats and intimidation by government 
authorities.  In January police arrested the president and a board 
member of the journalists' association and interrogated them for 7 hours 
about the 1991 publication of the RUF national anthem.  In March a 
journalist was arrested and held for 10 days without charge in 
connection with the publication of a photograph of an RSLMF captain who 
had defected to the RUF.  In April a freelance photojournalist was 
arrested and questioned about photographs he took showing government 
troops torturing prisoners.  Because of continuing verbal harassment by 
a senior NPRC official after his release, the journalist went into 
hiding.  In September police arrested two journalists, human rights 
monitor and editor Paul Kamara, and fellow newspaper editor Vandi 
Kallon.  Police accused both of giving the enemy useful information, but 
subsequently released them without formal charge. 
 
The Government continued to require that all news reports concerning the 
country's internal conflict be submitted to the Department of Defense 
for approval prior to publication or broadcast.  Many journalists 
exercise self-censorship. 
 
One of the capital's two radio stations is government-controlled and 
reflects only the views of the Government.  The other is operated by 
Christian missionaries and broadcasts religious programming and Voice of 
America news.  Two more privately owned stations operate in the 
provinces.  The Government owns and operates the only television 
station. 
 
There were no reports of detention of educators or threats to them for 
their teaching activities. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The 1991 Constitution provides for freedom of assembly as well as the 
right to form political, economic, social, and professional 
organizations.  The NPRC lifted its ban on political parties in June, 
but banned 57 individuals from participation in political activities for 
a period of 10 years (see Section l.d.).  The NPRC permitted peaceful 
demonstrations, routinely granting the required permits. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right in practice. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
There were no legal restrictions on travel within the country, but 
unsafe conditions often prevented travel outside Freetown and the 
western peninsula.  Personnel at military and paramilitary checkpoints 
also delayed travel, frequently demanding bribes.  NPRC decrees permit 
senior police and military officers to stop and question any person.  
Exit visas are required for anyone except diplomats seeking to travel 
outside the country.  There are no restrictions on emigration or 
repatriation.  Continuing conflict internally displaced as many as 1.7 
million persons during 1995, reducing food production and placing a 
severe strain on the economy.  In addition to the internally displaced, 
an estimated 400,000 Sierra Leoneans sought refuge in Guinea and 
Liberia. 
 
Sierra Leone continued to host approximately 5,000 Liberian refugees.  
The Government did not force refugees to repatriate to countries in 
which they fear persecution, but does not provide a formal process for 
granting political asylum. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change their Government 
 
Citizens do not have this right.  The NPRC controls all government 
institutions and appoints all senior government officials.  The NPRC is 
composed of the Supreme Council of State (SCS), and the Council of 
Secretaries of State.  The SCS formulates government policy, serving as 
a de facto legislature; day-to-day government operations are overseen by 
the department secretaries, who make up the Cabinet. 
 
In late September, military authorities charged nine junior level NPRC 
bodyguards with coup-plotting in Freetown; they await court-martial.  In 
January 1996 Brigadier Bio deposed Captain Strasser as Chairman of the 
NPRC. 
 
The RUF has publicly vowed to block elections in Sierra Leone, but does 
not appear to promote a coherent political philosophy (see Section 
1.a.). 
 
Women are underrepresented in the Government.  A woman heads the 
Department of Education, only the second female cabinet level official 
in the country's history.  The two largest cities have female mayors.  
Some senior civil service, police, and judicial positions are held by 
women.  There are no female NPRC members. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
The Government allows one local human rights group, the League for Human 
Rights and Democracy, to exist, and several local NGO's are active in 
defense of women's rights (see Section 1.d.).  There is a local chapter 
of Amnesty International in Freetown. 
 
The Government also allowed the ICRC to visit prisoners in Pademba Road 
Prison and suspected rebels in various military barracks.  It granted 
Amnesty International access to all prisoners which it requested to 
visit. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Constitution prohibits discrimination against women and provides 
some protection against official discrimination on the basis of race and 
ethnicity, except for the prohibition against citizenship for persons 
with a non-African father.  This provision effectively blocks 
citizenship and political participation by the Lebanese community, 
persons of Afro-Lebanese descent, and persons with non-African fathers.  
On occasion, government commissions have publicized an intent to change 
this provision of the Constitution, but have met strong public protest. 
 
   Women 
 
Violence against women, especially wife beating, is common.  The police 
are unlikely to intervene in domestic disputes except in cases of severe 
injury or death.  Few cases of such violence go to court.  Sierra Leone 
does not recognize domestic violence against women as a societal problem 
and the Government gives it little high-level attention. 
 
Rape remains a recognized societal problem.  It is punishable by up to 
14 years' imprisonment.  The Government does enforce this law. 
 
The Constitution provides for equal rights for women, but in practice 
women face both legal and societal discrimination.  Their rights and 
status under traditional law vary significantly, depending upon the 
ethnic group.  The Temne and Limba tribes of the north, for example, 
afford greater rights to a woman to inherit property than do the Mende, 
who give preference to male heirs and unmarried daughters.  In the 
north, on the other hand, women cannot become paramount chiefs.  In the 
south, there are a number of female paramount chiefs. 
 
Women do not have equal access to education, economic opportunities, 
health facilities, or social freedoms.  In rural areas women perform 
much of the subsistence farming, all of the child rearing, and have 
little opportunity for education.  The average educational level for 
women is markedly below that of men; only 6 percent are literate.  At 
the university level, men predominate.  Women Organized for an 
Enlightened Nation, a local NGO, seeks to educate women throughout the 
country on their civil rights and responsibilities.  The group met with 
the Interim National Electoral Commission and gained additional 
representation for women at the National Consultative Conference in 
August.  A Women's Bureau in the Department of Health and Social 
Services concerned itself with women's issues in the country at large, 
but was largely ineffective due to lack of resources and training.  
Every government department, including State House, is mandated to have 
a coordinator for women's affairs work with the Women's Bureau to 
monitor treatment of women employees, but few perform effectively. 
 
   Children 
 
The Government has made modest efforts to address, with the help of 
NGO's, the integration of "boy soldiers" back into society.  Many 
underage boys were allowed to join military operations early in the war.  
The rebel forces routinely conscript young men and women into their 
ranks when they attack rural villages.  The malnutrition rate among 
children, according to Medecins sans Frontieres, is extremely high, an 
estimated 29 percent, while child mortality is also high, and 
increasing. 
 
Instances of ritual murders of boys and girls, as well as adults, 
associated with animist religious groups in the provinces, continued.  
The press reported these murders widely, and they were openly discussed 
in public.  The Government arrested several ritual murder suspects in 
1995, but did not publicize any information about their court cases.  
Given the state of the judiciary, these cases, like many others, are 
still pending. 
 
Female genital mutilation (FGM), which is widely condemned by 
international health experts as damaging to both physical and 
psychological health, is widely practiced on girls at a young age, 
especially in traditional tribal groups and among the less educated.  
While one independent expert in the field estimates the percentage of 
females who have undergone this procedure may be as high as 80 percent, 
local groups believe that this figure is overstated.  Membership in 
female secret societies which practice FGM in their initiation rites has 
been declining. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
Questions of public facility access and discrimination against the 
disabled have not become public policy issues.  The Department of 
Education has, however, an official whose function is to implement the 
mainstreaming of students with learning disabilities. 
 
No laws mandate accessibility to buildings or provide for other 
assistance for the disabled.  There does not appear to be outright 
discrimination against the disabled in housing or education, but with 
the high rate of unemployment, few disabled persons work in offices or 
factories.  The difficulty disabled people face in finding employment 
places many facilities and services beyond their financial means. 
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
The Government does not officially approve of discrimination among 
people of different ethnic groups, but ethnic loyalty remains an 
important factor in government, military, and business.  Complaints of 
corruption and ethnic discrimination in government appointments, 
contracts, military commissions, and promotions are common. 
 
Residents of non-African descent face institutionalized political 
restrictions.  The Constitution restricts citizenship to people of 
Negro-African descent following a patrilineal pattern, effectively 
denying citizenship to many persons, notably in the Lebanese community, 
the largest affected minority. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
Unions have continued their activities under the NPRC.  The Constitution 
provides for the right of association, and all workers, including civil 
servants, have the right to join trade unions of their choice.  Unions 
are independent of the Government.  Individual labor unions have by 
custom joined the Sierra Leone Labor Congress (SLLC), and all unions are 
members of it.  Membership is, however, voluntary.  There is no legal 
prohibition against the SLLC leadership holding political office, and 
leaders have held both elected and appointed government positions. 
 
Under the Trade Union Act, any five persons may form a trade union by 
applying to the Registrar of Trade Unions, who has statutory powers 
under the act to approve the creation of trade unions.  The Registrar 
may reject applications for several reasons, including an insufficient 
number of members, proposed representation in an industry already served 
by an existing union, or incomplete documentation.  If the Registrar 
rejects an application, his decision may be appealed in the ordinary 
courts, but applicants seldom take such action.  Approximately 60 
percent of workers in urban areas, including government employees, are 
unionized, but unions have had little success in organizing workers in 
the agricultural and mining sectors. 
 
Unions have the right to strike without exception, but the Government 
may require 21 days' notice.  NPRC decrees which prohibit disruption of 
public tranquility or disruption of supplies could be employed to 
prevent a prolonged strike.  Although union members may be fired for 
participating in even a lawful strike, no such incidents were reported.  
Unions are free to form federations and confederations and affiliate 
internationally.  The SLLC is a member of the International 
Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and there are no restrictions on the 
international travel or contacts of trade unionists. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
The legal framework for collective bargaining is the Regulation of Wages 
and Industrial Relations Act.  Collective bargaining must take place in 
trade group negotiating councils, each of which has an equal number of 
employer and worker representatives.  Most enterprises are covered by 
collective bargaining agreements on wages and working conditions.  The 
SLLC provides assistance to unions in preparing for negotiations.  In 
case of a deadlock, the Government may intervene.  It has not, however, 
used decrees to prevent strikes. 
 
No law prohibits retribution against strikers.  Should an employee be 
fired for union activities, he or she may file a complaint with a labor 
tribunal and seek reinstatement.  Complaints of discrimination against 
unions are made to an arbitration tribunal.  Individual trade unions 
investigate alleged violations of work conditions to try to ensure that 
employers take the necessary steps to correct abuses. 
 
The labor laws also apply to enterprises located in export processing 
zones. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
Under the Chiefdom's Council Act, compulsory labor may be imposed by 
individual chiefs, requiring members of their villages to contribute to 
the improvement of common areas.  This practice exists only in rural 
areas.  There is no penalty for noncompliance. 
 
The NPRC does not require compulsory labor.  A decree does require that 
homeowners, businessmen, and vendors clean and maintain their premises.  
Failure to comply is punishable by fine or imprisonment.  Determinations 
of such cleaning and maintenance may be made by any health officer, 
police officer, or member of the armed forces.  The last Saturday of 
each month is declared a National Cleaning Day, and there were instances 
of security forces publicly humiliating citizens to ensure compliance. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The minimum age for employment is officially 18 years, but in practice 
there is no enforcement because there is no government entity 
specifically charged with this task.  Children routinely assist in 
family businesses, especially those of vendors and petty traders.  In 
rural areas children work seasonally on family subsistence farms. 
 
Because the adult unemployment rate is high (60 percent in some areas), 
few children are involved in the industrial sector.  There have been 
reports that young children have been hired by foreign employers to work 
as domestics overseas at extremely low wages and in appalling 
conditions.  The Department of Foreign Affairs and International 
Cooperation is responsible for reviewing overseas work applications to 
see that no one under 14 is employed for this purpose and to enforce 
certain wage standards. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
There is no minimum wage.  Purchasing power continued to decline, and 
most workers have to pool incomes with their extended families and 
engage in subsistence food production in order to maintain a minimum 
standard of living.  The Government's suggested standard workweek is 38 
hours, but this is not mandated, and most workweeks exceed 38 hours.  
The Government sets health and safety standards, but the standards are 
outmoded and often not enforced.  The Health and Safety Division of the 
Department of Labor has inspection and enforcement responsibility, but 
inadequate funding and transportation limit its effectiveness. 
 
Health and safety regulations are included in collective bargaining 
agreements, but there is no evidence of systematic enforcement of those 
health and safety standards.  Trade unions provide the only protection 
for workers who file complaints about working conditions.  Initially, a 
union makes a formal complaint about a hazardous work condition.  If 
this is rejected, the union may issue a 21-day strike notice.  If 
workers remove themselves from dangerous work situations without making 
a formal complaint, they risk being fired. 
 
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[end of document]

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