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Title:  Antigua and Barbuda Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996




                    ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA


Antigua and Barbuda, a small two-island state, is a parliamentary 
democracy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.  A prime 
minister, a cabinet, and a bicameral legislative assembly compose the 
Government.  A Governor General, appointed by the British monarch, is 
the titular Head of State, with largely ceremonial duties.  In general 
elections held in March 1994, the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) led by 
Lester B. Bird retained power by capturing 10 of 17 parliamentary seats, 
down from the 15 it held under the administration of V. C. Bird, the 
current Prime Minister's father.  The Governor General appoints the 15 
senators, 11 with the advice of the Prime Minister and 4 with the advice 
of the opposition leader.

Security forces consist of a police force and the small Antigua and 
Barbuda Defence Force.  The police are organized, trained, and 
supervised according to British law enforcement practices and have a 
reputation for respecting individual rights in the performance of their 
duties.

Antigua and Barbuda has a mixed economy with a strong private sector.  
Tourism is the most important source of foreign exchange earnings.  The 
country is burdened by a large and growing external debt which remains a 
serious economic problem.  The country was devastated in September when 
hurricane Luis caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

Although the Government generally respected constitutional provisions 
for political and civil rights, opposition parties complained that they 
received scant coverage from the government-controlled media, and that 
the Government sometimes denied them permits for rallies.  Societal 
discrimination and violence against women also continued to be problems.

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 the authorities generally 
respected these prohibitions.

Conditions at the lone 18th-century-vintage prison are primitive and 
crowded, and a 1930 law still governs treatment of prisoners.

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the 
Government respects these provisions in practice.  Criminal defendants 
have the right to a judicial determination of the legality of their 
detention.  The police must bring detainees before a court within 48 
hours of arrest or detention.  Opposition leaders claim the Government 
has developed a pattern of arresting suspects on Fridays and holding 
them until Tuesdays in order to prolong the incarceration.  Most of 
these cases involve youths suspected of narcotics violations.

There were no reports of involuntary exile.

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system is part of the Eastern Caribbean legal system and 
reflects historical ties to the United Kingdom.  The Privy Council in 
London is designated by the Constitution as the final court of appeal, 
which is invariably employed in the case of death sentences.  There are 
no military or political courts.  The Constitution provides that 
criminal defendants receive a fair, open, and public trial.  In capital 
cases only, the Government provides legal assistance at public expense 
to persons without the means to retain a private attorney.  Courts can 
reach verdicts with remarkable speed, with some cases coming to 
conclusion in a matter of days.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The Constitution prohibits such practices.  Government authorities 
generally respect these prohibitions, and violations are subject to 
effective legal sanction.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech, the press, and other 
forms of communication.  The authorities generally respect these 
provisions in practice.  However, the Government dominates the 
electronic media--the only daily source of news--and effectively denies 
equal coverage to opposition parties.  The Government owns one of the 
two radio stations and the single television station.  One of the Prime 
Minister's brothers owns the second radio station, and another brother 
is the principal owner of the sole cable television company.  The 
government-controlled media report regularly on the Government's and the 
ruling party's activities, but grant only very limited access to the 
opposition parties.  The sole daily paper keenly criticizes the 
Government.  Early in the year, protests prompted the Government to 
grant opposition leaders some media access to oppose a series of tax 
measures.

Political opposition parties and private sector organizations such as 
the Chamber of Commerce publish several weekly newspapers which offer a 
variety of opinions without government interference.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly.  The 
police normally issued the required permits for public meetings, but 
sometimes deny them in order to avert violent confrontations.  While the 
authorities placed some restrictions on demonstrations, the opposition 
was able to stage numerous public meetings, rallies, and other events 
with little interference.

  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

The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in 
practice.

There were no reports of forced expulsion of anyone having a valid claim 
to refugee status.  However, government practice remains undefined.

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

The Constitution provides for a multiparty political system 
accommodating a wide spectrum of political viewpoints.  All citizens 18 
years of age and older may register and vote by secret ballot.  The 
Constitution requires general elections at least every 5 years.  The law 
obligates the Government to hold voter registration during a fixed 
period each year, and parties conduct their own registration drives free 
of government interference.

Except for a period in opposition from 1971 to 1976, the ALP has held 
power continuously since 1951.  The opposition has charged that the 
ALP's longstanding monopoly on patronage and its influence over access 
to economic opportunities make it extremely difficult for opposition 
parties to attract membership and financial support.  In 1992 public 
concern over corruption in government spawned the merger of three 
opposition political parties into the United Progressive Party (UPP).  
The UPP succeeded in increasing its representation to seven seats from 
five during the 1994 election.  Opposition and press regularly charge 
members of the Government with corrupt practices.

There are no women serving as members of Parliament or as Ministers in 
the Government.  Eight of the 14 Ministry Permanent Secretaries (the top 
civil servant position in Ministries) are women.

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

While there are no governmental restrictions, no local human rights 
groups have formed to date.  There were no requests for human rights 
investigations or inquiries from individuals or international human 
rights groups during the year.

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

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, creed, language, or 
social status, and the Government generally observed its provisions.

  Women

Violence against women is a recognized social problem.  It is treated as 
a matter of public conscience, and there are nongovernmental social 
welfare groups focused on the problem.  Women in many cases are 
reluctant to testify against their abusers.  Police generally refrain 
from intervening in cases of domestic violence, and some women have 
charged credibly that the courts are lenient in such cases.

While the role of women in society is not legally restricted, economic 
conditions tend to limit women to home and family, particularly in rural 
areas, although some women work as domestics, in agriculture, or in the 
large tourism sector.  The Government promised in previous years to 
provide better programs and educational opportunities for both sexes as 
well as family planning services, but failed to implement any new 
programs during the year.  The Directorate of Women's Affairs exists to 
help women advance in government and the professions, but progress was 
slow.

  Children

Child abuse remains a hidden problem.  While the Government repeatedly 
expressed its commitment to children's rights, it made no significant 
efforts to protect those rights in practice, and abuse tends to go 
unpunished.

  People With Disabilities

There are no specific laws mandating accessibility for the disabled, but 
there are constitutional provisions that prohibit discrimination against 
the physically disabled in employment and education.  There is no 
evidence of widespread discrimination against physically disabled 
individuals, although the Government does not visibly enforce the 
constitutional antidiscrimination provisions.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the right to associate freely and to form labor unions, and 
the authorities generally respect these rights in practice.  Although 
fewer than 50 percent of workers belong to unions, the important hotel 
industry is heavily unionized.  Antigua and Barbuda has two major trade 
unions:  the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (ATLU) and the Antigua 
Workers' Union (AWU).  The ATLU is associated with the ruling ALP, while 
the larger and more active AWU is rather loosely allied with the 
opposition.

The Labor Code recognizes the right to strike, but the Court of 
Industrial Relations may limit this right in a given dispute.  Once 
either party to a dispute requests the court to mediate, there can be no 
strike.  Because of the delays associated with this process, unions 
often resolve labor disputes before a strike is called.

Unions are free to affiliate with international labor organizations and 
do so in practice.

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Labor organizations are free to organize and bargain collectively.  The 
law prohibits antiunion discrimination, and there were no reports that 
it occurred.  Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination are not 
required to rehire employees fired for union activities, but must pay 
full severance pay and full wages lost by the employee from the time of 
firing until the determination of employer fault.  There are no areas of 
the country where union organization or collective bargaining is 
discouraged or impeded.

There are no export processing zones.

  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution forbids slavery and forced labor, and they do not exist 
in practice.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law stipulates a minimum working age of 13, which is respected in 
practice.  The Ministry of Labour, which is required by law to conduct 
periodic inspections of workplaces, has responsibility for enforcement.  
There have been no reports of minimum age employment violations.  The 
political strength of the two major unions and the powerful influence of 
the Government on the private sector combine to make the Ministry of 
Labour very effective in enforcement in this area.

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law established minimum wages for various work categories in 1981.  
The lowest minimum wage, for domestic workers, is $0.46 (EC$1.25) per 
hour; the highest minimum wage, for skilled labor, is $1.30 (EC$3.50) 
per hour.  Most minimum wages would not provide a decent standard of 
living for workers and their families, but in practice the great 
majority of workers earn substantially more than the minimum wage.

The law permits a maximum 48-hour, 6-day workweek, but in practice the 
standard workweek is 40 hours in 5 days.  The law provides workers a 
minimum of 3 weeks of annual leave and up to 13 weeks of maternity 
leave.

There are no occupational health and safety laws or regulations; thus 
there is no provision for a worker to leave a dangerous workplace 
situation without jeopardy to continued employment.

(###)

[end of document]

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