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Title:  Kiribati Human Rights Practices, 1995 
Author:  U.S. Department of State  
Date:  March 1996  
 
 
 
 
                                KIRIBATI 
 
 
Kiribati comprises some 78,400 people occupying 33 small islands widely 
scattered across 3.5 million square kilometers of the central Pacific.  
The population is primarily Micronesian, with a significant component of 
Polynesian origin.  Kiribati gained full independence from the United 
Kingdom in 1979 and became a republic within the Commonwealth of 
Nations.  It has a nationally elected president and a legislative 
assembly with 39 members elected by universal suffrage and 2 members ex 
officio.   
 
The main security apparatus is a police force of about 250 personnel, 
responsible to and effectively controlled by civilian authority. 
 
Economic activity consists primarily of subsistence agriculture and 
fishing.  The islands' isolation and meager resources, including poor 
soil and limited arable land, severely limit prospects for economic 
development. 
 
Kiribati society is egalitarian, democratic, and respectful of human 
rights.  There were no reports of specific human rights abuses, but in 
the traditional culture women have occupied a subordinate role with 
limited job opportunities.   
 
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 
 
Although torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are 
forbidden by the Constitution, corporal punishment is permitted under 
traditional mores for criminal acts and other transgressions.  On some 
outer islands, the island councils occasionally order strokes with palm 
fronds to be administered for public drunkenness and other minor 
offenses such as petty thievery.   
 
The authorities strive to meet minimum international standards for 
prisons but have limited financial resources.  Food and sanitation are 
limited.  Family members and representatives of church groups are 
allowed access to prisoners.  The question of monitoring of prison 
conditions by local human rights groups has not arisen, and no policy 
concerning such monitoring has been formulated. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and 
the Government observes this prohibition. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The judiciary is independent and free of governmental interference.  The 
right to a fair public trial is provided by law and observed in 
practice.  The Constitution provides that an accused person be informed 
of the nature of the offense for which he is charged and be provided 
adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense.  The right to 
confront witnesses, present evidence, and appeal convictions is 
enshrined in law.  Procedural safeguards are based on English common 
law.   
 
There are no political prisoners. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The law prohibits such practices.  Government authorities respect these 
provisions, and violations are subject to effective legal sanctions. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the 
Government respects this right in practice.  The radio station and the 
only newspaper are government owned but offer a variety of views.  
Churches publish newsletters and other periodicals.  Academic freedom is 
respected. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, 
including the right to form or belong to associations for the 
advancement or protection of a group's interests, and the Government 
does not impose any significant restrictions in practice. 
 
    c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
Freedom of religion prevails.  There is no state or preferred religion.  
Missionaries are free to seek converts.   
 
   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.  Kiribati has no refugees or asylum-seekers, and the 
Government has not formulated a policy toward them. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
The Government is chosen by the people in periodic free and open 
elections.  Executive authority is exercised by the President, who is 
elected by the people for a 4-year term.  No  
less than three and no more than four presidential candidates are 
nominated by the elected Legislative Assembly from among its members.  
Under the Constitution the President is limited to three terms. 
 
The snap general election of August 1994 saw the formation of Kiribati's 
first real political party, the Maneaban Te Mauri Party (MTM), as 
opposition forces united to bring down the National Progressive Party 
(NPP).  (The NPP, the group which had led Kiribati since independence in 
1979, has never been organized as a political party.)  In those 
elections, the MTM won 19 of the 39 seats (2 more are ex officio), and 
an MTM leader, Teburoro Tito, was elected President. Tito remains under 
pressure from the defeated NPP, which has lodged several judicial 
actions against Tito.   
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
There are no restrictions on the formation of local nongovernmental 
organizations that concern themselves with human rights, but to date 
none has been formed.  There have been no reported allegations of human 
rights violations by the Government and no known requests for 
investigations.  Kiribati is not a member of the United Nations. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, creed, 
national origin, or sex, and the Government generally observed this 
prohibition in practice.  Kiribati society, fundamentally egalitarian, 
has no privileged chiefly class. 
 
    Women 
 
Violence against women does not appear to be a major problem in this 
isolated, rural society.  Rape is a crime under the law, and the law is 
enforced when charges are brought to court.  To the extent that it 
exists, wife beating is dealt with informally and in a traditional way; 
frequently, communal pressure is brought to bear. 
 
The traditional culture in which males are dominant has been an 
impediment to women taking a more active role in the economy.  This is 
slowly changing, and more women are finding work in unskilled and 
semiskilled occupations.  There are also signs of affirmative action in 
government hiring and promotions to redress this culturally based 
inequity.  A recent example of such affirmative action is the 
appointment of Makurita Baaro as the nation's first female Secretary for 
Foreign Affairs.  The selection of female participants for overseas 
training programs in the United States, Japan, and other countries also 
bears out a firm commitment to the advancement of women.  Women have 
full and equal access to education. 
 
Statistics on the participation of women in the work force and on 
comparative wages are unavailable.  Women have full rights of ownership 
and inheritance of property.   
 
   Children 
 
Within the limited resources of the Government, adequate expenditures 
are made for child welfare.  If child abuse exists, it is rare and has 
not become a source of societal concern.   
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
There is no evidence or complaint of discrimination in employment, 
education, or provision of other state services.  Accessibility for the 
disabled has not been mandated. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
Freedom of association is provided for in the Constitution.  Workers are 
free to organize unions and choose their own representatives.  The 
Government does not control or restrict unions.  Over 90 percent of the 
work force is occupied in fishing or subsistence farming, but the small 
wage sector has a relatively strong and effective trade union movement.  
In 1982 the seven trade unions registered in Kiribati merged to form the 
Kiribati Trade Union Congress (KTUC).  It has approximately 2,500 
members, mostly from the public service sector.  The KTUC is affiliated 
with the International Confederation of Free  Trade Unions.  The law 
provides for the right to strike.  However, strikes are rare, the last 
one taking place in 1980.   
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Collective bargaining is provided for under the Industrial Relations 
Code.  The government sets wages in the large public sector.  However, 
in a few statutory bodies and government-owned companies, employees may 
negotiate wages and other conditions.  In the private sector employees 
may also negotiate wages with employers.  Negotiations are generally 
nonconfrontational, in keeping with Kiribati tradition.  There have been 
no reports of antiunion discrimination.  However, there are mechanisms 
for resolving any such complaints. 
 
There are no export processing zones. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and it is not 
practiced. 
  
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The law prohibits the employment of children under age 14.  Children 
through age 15 are prohibited from industrial employment and employment 
aboard ships.  Labor officers from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, 
and Employment normally enforce these laws effectively, given the 
rudimentary conditions of the economy and its industrial relations 
system.  Children are rarely employed outside the traditional economy.   
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The Government has taken no concrete action to implement longstanding 
legislation authorizing establishment of minimum wages.  There is no 
legislatively prescribed workweek.  The Government is the major employer 
in the cash economy. 
 
Employment laws provide rudimentary health and safety standards for the 
workplace.  Employers must, for example, provide an adequate supply of 
clean water for workers and ensure the existence of sanitary toilet 
facilities.  Employers are liable for the expenses of workers injured on 
the job.  The Government's ability to enforce employment laws is 
hampered by a lack of qualified personnel.  Women may not work at night 
except under specified circumstances (generally in service jobs such as 
hotel clerks).  

(###)

[end of document]

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