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


The Republic of Nauru, a small Pacific island with about 10,500 
inhabitants, gained independence in 1968, at which time it adopted a 
modified form of parliamentary democracy.  Nauru has two levels of 
government, the unicameral Parliament and the Nauru Island Council 
(NIC).  Parliamentary elections must be held at least triennially.  The 
Parliament, consisting of 18 members from 14 constituencies, is 
responsible for national and international matters.  It elects the 
President, who is both Head of State and Head of Government, from among 
its members.  The NIC acts as the local government and is responsible 
for public services.  The judiciary is independent.  

Nauru has no armed forces although it does maintain a small police force 
(less than 100 members) under civilian control.

The economy depends almost entirely on the country's rich phosphate 
deposits, mined by the government-owned Nauru Phosphate Corporation 
(NPC).  The Government places a large percentage of the NPC's earnings 
in long-term investments meant to support the citizenry after the 
phosphate reserves have been exhausted, which, using current extraction 
techniques, will probably occur by the year 2000.  The Governments of 
Nauru and Australia reached a $70.4 million out-of-court settlement in 
1993 for rehabilitation of the Nauruan lands ruined by Australian 
phosphate mining, with specific proposals for the next 10 to 25 years 
submitted to Parliament at midyear for approval.

Fundamental human rights are provided for in the Constitution and 
generally respected in practice.  There were no reports of specific 
human rights abuses, but in the traditional culture women occupy a 
subordinate, child-producing role, with limits on their job 
opportunities.  Complaints of discrimination against guest workers from 
Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, particularly in treatment by police and 
in housing, continued. 


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 

  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 

The Constitution prohibits these practices, and the Government respects 
these prohibitions in practice.  

The Government attempts to provide internationally accepted minimum 
prison conditions within its limited financial needs and in accordance 
with local living standards.  Prison conditions, however, are basic, and 
food and sanitation are limited.  There are no local human rights 
groups, and the question of visits to prisons by human rights monitors 
has not been raised.  Visits by church groups and family members are 

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The constitutional prohibition against arbitrary arrest and detention is 
honored.  The police may hold a person for no more than 24 hours without 
a hearing before a magistrate.  The Government does not practice forced 

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Nauru maintains an independent judiciary, and constitutional provisions 
for both a fair hearing and a public trial are respected.  Defendants 
may have legal counsel, and a representative will be appointed when 
required "in the interest of justice."  However, many cases never reach 
the formal legal process, as traditional reconciliation is used--usually 
by choice but sometimes under communal (not government) pressure.  Guest 
workers from Kiribati and Tuvalu are particularly at a disadvantage in 
complaints against Nauruan citizens.  Nauru has only two trained 
lawyers, and many people are represented in court by "pleaders," trained 
paralegals certified by the Government.  

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The Constitution generally prohibits these abuses.  Searches not 
sanctioned by court order are prohibited, and there is no surveillance 
of individuals or of private communications.  Citizenship and 
inheritance rights are traced through the female line.  Until very 
recently, laws restricted intermarriage with non-Nauruans.  Although the 
laws have changed, intermarriage between women and foreign males still 
draws substantial social censure.  The foreign spouses--male or female--
of citizens have no automatic right of abode in Nauru.  They are, 
however, normally granted short-term "visits" sponsored by the Nauru 
spouse, or they may apply for longer 

term work permits.  Foreign spouses are not eligible for citizenship.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression.  News and opinion 
circulate freely, rapidly, and widely by the press and word of mouth.  
The country has two regular publications:  the private, fortnightly 
newspaper, the Central Star News, which operates and editorializes 
freely; and the Government Gazette, which contains mainly official 
notices and announcements.  The sole radio station, also owned and 
operated by the Government, broadcasts Radio Australia and British 
Broadcasting Corporation news reports but not local news.  Pay 
television broadcast from New Zealand is received by satellite.  Foreign 
publications are widely available.  

There are no prohibitions or restrictions on academic freedom.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Government respects the constitutional right of peaceful assembly 
and association.  There are no limitations on private associations, and 
no permits are required for public meetings.  

  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 for citizens, and the Government 
respects them in practice.

Foreign workers must apply to their employers for permission to leave 
during the period of their contracts.  They may break the contract and 
leave without permission but would lose their positions and often a 
sizable bond as a result.  In most cases, foreign employees whose 
contracts are terminated by their employers must leave Nauru within 60 

There have been no known cases of asylum seekers or refugees, and 
accordingly no government policy toward them has been formulated.

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

Citizens have, and exercise, the right to change their government.  
Although Nauru has no organized political parties, persons with diverse 
points of view run for and are elected to Parliament and to the NIC.

Parliament elects the President.  Nauru has had eight changes in 
presidential leadership since independence in 1968.  Power has always 
been transferred peacefully and in accordance with the Constitution.  In 
November Nauru's newly elected Parliament selected Lagumot Harris to 
succeed Bernard Dowiyogo as President.  Voting by secret ballot is 
compulsory for all citizens over age 20 for parliamentary elections.  
There have been multiple candidates for all parliamentary seats during 
recent elections.  The approximately 3,000 guest workers have no voice 
in political decisions.  

There are no legal impediments to participation in politics by women, 
and women have in the past served in Parliament.  Currently, there is 
one woman, elected in the November elections, serving in Parliament.

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

There are no restrictions on establishing local groups that concern 
themselves specifically with human rights, but to date none has been 
formed.  There have been no allegations by outside organizations of 
human rights violations in Nauru, nor any requests for investigations.

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

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, 
religion, disability, language, or social status.  The Government 
generally observes this in practice; however, women do not receive the 
same degree of freedom and protection as men.  


Previous governments have shown little interest in the problems of 
women.  While the current authorities give high priority to improved 
health care and education, the island has no gynecologists, and the 
Government has not addressed the physical abuse of women and does not 
collect statistics on it.  Some credible reports indicate that sporadic 
abuse, often aggravated by alcohol abuse, occurs.  Families usually 
attempt to reconcile such problems informally as is standard islander 
practice.  Major and unresolved family disputes are treated seriously by 
the courts and the Government.

Constitutional provisions assuring women the same freedoms and 
protections as men are not fully observed in practice.  The Government 
provides equal opportunities in education and employment, and women are 
free to own property and pursue private interests.  However, both the 
Government and society still give women clear signals that their 
ultimate goal should be marriage and raising a family.  Nauru's 
population has been almost eliminated on several occasions, first by 
disease and drought, and then during World War II as a result of massive 
removals by the Japanese.  The Government has gone to great lengths to 
encourage large families, and Nauruan women complain that emphasis on 
their reproductive role reduces their opportunities.  For example, young 
women studying abroad on scholarship and contemplating marriage possible 
termination of their educational grants as it is assumed that they will 
leave the work force and thus not require additional academic training.


The Government devotes considerable attention to the welfare of 
children, with particular stress on their health and educational needs.  
Child abuse statistics do not exist, but alcohol abuse sometimes leads 
to child neglect or abuse.  The NIC treats child abuse as a serious 
communal matter.  While there was one reported case in 1994, there have 
been none in 1995.  

  People with Disabilities

There is no reported discrimination in employment, education, and the 
provision of state services to persons with disabilities.  There is, 
however, no legislation mandating accessibility to public buildings and 
services for the disabled.

  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Foreign laborers, mainly from Vanuatu, Kiribati, and Tuvalu, experience 
some discrimination.  While guest workers are provided free housing, the 
shelters they are given are often poorly maintained and overcrowded.  
Some guest workers have alleged that the police rarely act on complaints 
they make against citizens.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right of citizens to form and belong 
to trade unions or other associations.  However, Nauru has virtually no 
labor laws, and there are currently no trade unions.  Past efforts to 
form unions were officially discouraged.  The transient nature of the 
mostly foreign work force and the relative prosperity of the citizenry 
have also served to hamper efforts to organize the labor force.  The 
right to strike is neither protected, prohibited, nor limited by law.  
No strikes took place in 1995.  Nauru is not a member of the 
International Labor Organization.  There are no provisions which would 
prohibit or limit the right of unions to affiliate with international 

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

While there are no legal impediments, collective bargaining does not 
take place, and, as noted above, has been unsuccessful.  The private 
sector organizing union employs only about 1 percent of Nauru's salaried 
workers.  For government workers, public service regulations determine 
salaries, working hours, vacation periods, and other employment matters.  

There are no export processing zones.

  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution forbids forced or compulsory labor, and there have been 
no instances of either.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Education is compulsory until age 16; the law sets 17 as the minimum age 
of employment.  This is honored by the only two large employers, the 
Government and the NPC.  Some children under age 17 work in the few 
small family owned businesses.

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Minimum wages vary considerably between office workers and manual 
laborers, but they suffice to provide an adequate, if modest, standard 
of living.  Thanks to yearly dividends paid by the NPC, most families 
live in simple but adequate housing, and almost every Nauruan family 
owns at least one car or truck.  The Government sets the minimum yearly 
wage administratively for both public and private sectors.  Since 
November 1992, that rate has been $6,562 ($A9,056) for those 21 years of 
age or older.  The rate is progressively lower for those under 21 years 
of age.  Employers determine wages for foreign contract workers based on 
market conditions and the consumer price index.  Usually foreign workers 
and their families receive free housing, utilities, medical treatment, 
and often a food allowance.  By regulation the workweek for office 
workers is 36 hours and for manual laborers 40 hours in both the public 
and private sectors.  Neither law nor regulations stipulate a weekly 
rest period; however, most workers observe Saturdays and Sundays as 

The Government sets health and safety standards.  The NPC has an active 
safety program that includes worker education and the use of safety 
helmets, safety shoes, respirators for dusty conditions, and other 
safety measures.  The NPC has a safety officer who is specifically 
responsible for improving safety standards and compliance throughout the 


[end of document]


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