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




                          DOMINICA


Dominica is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth 
of Nations.  The United Workers Party, led by Prime Minister Edison 
James, won 11 of 21 seats in Parliament in free and fair elections in 
June.  The Constitution calls for elections at least every 5 years.

The Dominica Police is the only security force.  It is controlled by and 
responsive to the democratically elected Government.

Dominica's primarily agrarian economy depends on earnings from banana 
exports to the European Union.  The banana industry throughout the 
Windward Islands continues to suffer from relatively low prices on the 
world banana market, and Dominica has not escaped the negative impact.  
In addition, hurricanes destroyed almost 90 percent of Dominica's crop 
during the 1995 season.  The Government is attempting to develop the 
tourist industry, to diversify agricultural production, and to promote 
exports of raw fruits, vegetables, and coconut products, both within and 
outside the region.

Human rights are generally well respected in Dominica.

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.

Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions continue to be problems in 
Dominica's only prison facility.  The prison provides work therapy, 
sports programs, educational opportunities, and counseling for inmates.

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law requires that police charge persons with a crime within 24 hours 
after arrest or detention or release them from custody.  This is 
generally honored in practice, although often those arrested on Fridays 
remain the weekend in jail and are not charged until the following 
Monday.  The other exception to usual practice is if the detainee cannot 
afford legal counsel.

The Government does not use forced exile.

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for public trial before an independent, impartial 
court.  Criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, 
are allowed legal counsel, and have the right to appeal.  Courts provide 
free legal counsel to the indigent only in capital cases.

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 the right of free expression, and the 
Government respects this in practice.  The political opposition openly 
criticizes the Government.  Dominica's main radio station is state owned 
and generally allows citizens to express their views.  Opposition groups 
allege, however, that the new Government is requiring all editorial 
material to be submitted to the Government's information office for 
approval prior to broadcast, a charge which the Government denies.  
There is also an independent radio station owned by the Catholic Church.

Dominicans enjoy good access to independent news sources through cable 
television and radio reception from neighboring islands.  The print 
media consist of two private newspapers and political party journals; 
all publish without censorship or government interference.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Government respects the constitutionally mandated freedoms of 
association and assembly and does not hinder opposition groups from 
holding political meetings or public demonstrations.  Such meetings and 
gatherings were held frequently throughout the year.

  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 authorities respect them in 
practice.  The Government may revoke passports if subversion is 
suspected but has not done so in recent times.

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

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their 
government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice 
through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of 
universal suffrage.

In national elections in June, the United Workers Party defeated the 
incumbent Dominica Freedom Party, taking 11 of 21 seats in Parliament.  
Five seats are held by the Dominica Labour Party and four by the 
Dominica Freedom Party.  One seat was declared vacant by the courts 
after the eligibility of a candidate was challenged on the grounds that 
he was a public employee at the time of this election.

There are no impediments in law or in fact to the participation of women 
in leadership roles in government or political parties.  During the June 
elections, two women were elected to Parliament.  Indigenous Carib 
Indians participate in national political life and enjoy the same civil 
rights accorded other Dominican nationals.

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

There are no government restrictions on the formation of local human 
rights organizations, although no such groups exist.  Several advocacy 
groups, such as the Association of Disabled People and a women's and 
children's self-help organization, operate freely and without government 
interference.  There were no requests for investigations of human rights 
abuses from international or regional human rights groups.

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

The Constitution includes provisions against racial, sexual, and 
religious discrimination, which the authorities respect in practice.

  Women

Beyond the general protection of the Constitution, women do not benefit 
from any specific civil rights legislation.  There is little open 
discrimination against women, yet sexual harassment and domestic 
violence cases are common, and there is no family court to deal 
specifically with domestic violence issues.  Women can bring charges 
against husbands for battery, and both the police and the courts 
prosecute cases of rape and sexual assault, but there are no specific 
spousal abuse laws.  The Welfare Department assists victims of abuse by 
finding temporary shelter, providing counseling to both parties, or 
recommending police action.  The Welfare Department reports all cases of 
abuse to the police.  The courts may issue protective orders, but the 
police do not consistently enforce them.

Property ownership continues to be deeded to "heads of households," who 
are usually males.  When the husband head of household dies without a 
will, the wife cannot inherit the property or sell it, although she can 
live in it and pass it to her children.  In the civil service, the law 
establishes fixed pay rates for specific jobs, whatever the gender of 
the incumbent.  There is no law requiring equal pay for equal work for 
private sector workers.

  Children

Various laws enumerate children's rights in Dominica, but their 
enforcement is hampered by lack of staffing in government agencies.  
Reported cases of child abuse increased from 253 in 1993 to 416 in 1994; 
the Government has not responded with any increase in the number of 
social workers assigned to handle such cases.  The Social welfare office 
which has only six staff members to deal with all welfare issues handles 
complaints of child abuse.

Although the maximum sentence for sexual molestation (rape, incest) is 
life imprisonment, the normal sentence given is 15 years except in the 
case of murder.  The age of consent to sexual relations is 16 years.

  People With Disabilities

Beyond the general protection of the Constitution, there is no specific 
legislation dealing with the disabled.  There is no requirement 
mandating access for those with disabilities.

  Indigenous People

There is a significant Carib Indian population, estimated at 3,000 out 
of a total population of 72,000.  Most live on a 3,700-acre reservation 
created in 1903.  School, water, and health facilities available on the 
Carib reservation are similar to those available to other rural 
Dominicans.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

All workers have the legal right to organize, to choose their 
representatives, and to strike, but unions represent less than 10 
percent of the work force.  All unions are independent of the 
Government.  While there are no direct ties, members of certain 
political parties dominate some unions.  There is no restriction on 
forming labor federations, and unions are affiliated with various 
international labor bodies.

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Unions have legally defined rights to organize workers and to bargain 
with employers.  Collective bargaining is widespread in the 
nonagricultural sectors of the economy, including the government 
service, and there is also recourse to mediation and arbitration by the 
Government.  The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers, 
and judicial and police authorities enforce union rights.  In addition, 
employers must reinstate workers fired for union activities.  It is 
legally compulsory for employers to recognize unions as bargaining 
agents once both parties have followed appropriate procedures.  
Department of Labour inspectors under the supervision of the Labour 
Commissioner enforce labor legislation, but the small Labour Inspection 
Office lacks qualified personnel to carry out its duties.

Labor regulations and practices governing Dominica's industrial areas 
and export firms do not differ from those prevailing in the rest of the 
economy.

  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and such labor is not 
known to exist.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum legal age for employment is 15 years.  Employers generally 
observe this law without government enforcement.

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law sets minimum wages for various categories of workers.  These 
were last revised in November 1989.  The minimum wage rate for most 
categories of workers is $0.56 (EC$1.50) per hour, but for domestic 
servants it is $0.37 (EC$1.00) per hour if meals are included, and $0.46 
(EC$1.25) per hour if meals are not included.  The minimum wage is not 
sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a household.  
However, most workers (including domestics) earn more than the 
legislated minimum wage.

The standard legal workweek is 40 hours in 5 days.  The law provides for 
a minimum of 2 weeks' paid vacation per year.  The Employment Safety Act 
provides occupational health and safety regulation.  Local 
nongovernmental organizations and one major union consider it to be 
consistent with international standards.  The Advisory Committee on 
Safety and Health is an established body but has never met.  The rarely 
used enforcement mechanism consists of inspections by the Department of 
Labour, which can and does prescribe specific compliance measures, 
impose fines, and prosecute offenders.  Workers have the right to remove 
themselves from unsafe work environments without jeopardy to continued 
employment.

(###)

[end of document]

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