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




                       MARSHALL ISLANDS


The Republic of the Marshall Islands, a self-governing nation under the 
Compact of Free Association with the United States, is composed of a 
number of small islands in the central Pacific, with a total land area 
of about 70 square miles.  The approximately 56,000 inhabitants are of 
Micronesian origin and concentrated primarily on Majuro and Kwajalein 
atolls.

The Constitution provides for free and fair elections, executive and 
legislative branches, and an independent judiciary.  The legislature 
consists of the Nitijela, a 33-member Parliament, and a Council of 
Chiefs (Iroij), which serves a largely consultative function dealing 
with custom and traditional practice.  The President is elected by 
majority Nitijela vote, and he appoints his Cabinet from its membership.

Under the Compact of Free Association, the United States is responsible 
for defense and national security, and the Marshall Islands has no 
external security force of its own.  The national and local police 
forces, supervised by the Ministry of Justice, have responsibility for 
internal security.  These agencies honor constitutional and legal civil 
rights protections in executing their responsibilities.

The economy depends mainly on transfer payments from the United States.  
Coconut oil and copra exports, a small amount of tourism, and the 
expanding fishing industry generate limited revenues.

The Government fully respects the human rights of its citizens, but its 
influence leads to occasional instances of self-censorship in sensitive 
political or cultural areas.

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 expressly forbids such practices, and there were no 
reports that officials employed them.  Prison conditions, while Spartan, 
meet minimal international standards.  The Government permits visits by 
human rights monitors.

  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 Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the 
Government respects this in practice.  

The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and the 
Government generally enforces this right.  Government interest in a 1995 
land-lease dispute between the country's largest private sector employer 
and two traditional chiefs contributed to the failure of local police to 
enforce a high court injunction against the chiefs.  This unwillingness 
to act resulted in the company's land-lease termination and closing of 
its store, one of the country's largest, despite a valid 7-year lease.  
The dispute was later settled out of court.

There were no reports of political prisoners.  

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

The Constitution provides for freedom from such practices, government 
authorities 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 and the press, and the 
Government generally honors these rights in practice.  However, 
government influence leads to occasional self-censorship by the media in 
areas of political or cultural sensitivity.  There are four operating 
radio stations, one government owned and three privately owned, 
including one owned by a prominent member of the opposition.  There is a 
cable television company which normally shows U.S. programming but 
occasionally covers local events.  The cable company is owned and 
operated by members of the political opposition.

A U.S. citizen and longtime resident operates the country's sole 
privately owned newspaper.  The editor and two reporters are U.S. 
citizens as well.

The Government publishes a monthly gazette containing official news and 
notices only.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and 
association, and this is observed in practice.

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

There are no refugees, and the Government has no formal policy about 
them.

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  through 
periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal 
suffrage.  The Government is chosen by secret ballot in free and open 
elections every 4 years.  Suffrage is universal for citizens 18 years of 
age and older.  There are no restrictions on the formation of political 
parties, although political activity by foreigners is prohibited.  The 
Marshall Islands has had the same President since 1979 due primarily to 
traditional loyalties and concentrated political influence.  In January 
1996, the President was reelected by the Nitijela to a 4-year term.  

There are no legal impediments to women's participation in government 
and politics.  A woman serves as the Minister of Education, and two hold 
deputy minister positions.  The mayor of Majuro, the country's capital 
and principal urban center, also is a woman.  Although women have an 
increasing role in government, they remain underrepresented in 
Parliament and other government positions.

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

While there are no official restrictions, no local nongovernmental human 
rights organizations have been formed.  

No international human rights organization has expressed interest or 
concern or visited the country.

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

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, 
color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or 
social origin, place of birth, family status or descent, and the 
Government respects these provisions.

  Women

There are allegations of violence against women, mainly related to 
domestic abuse.  However, this is not considered to be a serious or a 
widespread problem.  The Government's health office advises that few 
such cases are reported to the authorities, but many more are believed 
to go unreported.  Assault is a criminal offense, but women are 
reluctant to prosecute spouses.  Women's groups have been formed to 
publicize women's issues and to create a greater awareness of the rights 
of women.

Inheritance of property and of traditional rank is matrilineal, with 
women occupying positions of importance within the traditional system.  
No instances of unequal pay for equal work or sex-related job 
discrimination were reported.  

  Children

The Government is committed to children's welfare through its programs 
of health care and education, but these have not been adequate to meet 
the needs of the country's sharply increasing population.  Marshall 
Islands is working to incorporate the provisions of the Convention of 
the Rights of the Child into law.  The Domestic Relations Amendment of 
1993 defines child abuse and neglect and makes them criminal offenses.  
Other legislation requires teachers, caregivers, and other persons to 
report instances of child abuse and exempts them from civil or criminal 
liability as a consequence of making such a report.  Because the 
Attorney General's Office considers the Child Abuse Law vague and 
difficult to apply, ways to improve it are being explored.  Child abuse 
is thought to be relatively uncommon, and there have been few child 
abuse prosecutions.  The Government investigated two child sexual abuse 
cases in 1995, both involving foreign offenders.  The first case 
resulted in a conviction on the lesser charge of assault; the second 
remained under investigation at year's end.

  People with Disabilities

There is no discrimination against disabled persons in employment, 
education, or in the provision of other state services.  Until 1994 
there were no building codes, and there is still no legislation 
mandating access for the disabled.  There have been no reported 
instances of discrimination against the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right of free association in general, 
and the Government interprets this right as allowing the existence of 
labor unions, although none have been formed to date.  The Constitution 
does not provide for the right to strike, and the Government has not 
addressed this issue.

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

There is no legislation concerning collective bargaining or trade union 
organization.  However, there are no impediments to the organization of 
trade unions or to collective bargaining.  Wages in the cash economy are 
determined by market factors in accordance with the minimum wage and 
other laws.

  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits involuntary servitude, and there is no 
evidence of its practice.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law does not prohibit the employment of children.  Children are not 
typically employed in the wage economy, but some assist their families 
with fishing, agriculture, and other small-scale domestic enterprises.  
The law requires compulsory education for children 6 to 14; but the 
Government does not enforce this law due to a lack of classrooms and 
teachers.  There  is no law or regulation setting a minimum age for 
employment of children.

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is a government-specified minimum wage established by law, and it 
is adequate to maintain a decent standard of living in this subsistence 
economy where extended families are expected to help less fortunate 
family members.  The minimum wage for all government and private sector 
employees is $2.00 per hour.  (The U.S. dollar is the local currency.)  
The Ministry of Resources and Development oversees minimum wage 
regulations, and its oversight has been deemed adequate.  Foreign 
employees and Marshallese trainees of private employers who have 
invested in or established a business in the country are exempt from 
minimum wage requirements.  This exemption does not affect a significant 
segment of the work force.


There is no legislation concerning maximum hours of work or occupational 
safety and health.  Most businesses are closed and people generally 
refrain from work on Sunday.  Although legislation was adopted in 1994 
that shortened the workweek of most government employees in an attempt 
to cut official spending, no changes have been implemented.

A government labor office makes recommendations to the Nitijela on 
working conditions, i.e., minimum wage, legal working hours and overtime 
payments, and occupational health and safety standards in accordance 
with International Labor Organization conventions.  The office 
periodically convenes board meetings that are open to the public.  There 
is no legislation specifically giving workers the right to remove 
themselves from situations which endanger their health or safety without 
jeopardy to their continued employment, and there is no legislation 
protecting workers who file complaints about such conditions.

(###)

[end of document]

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