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TITLE:  TONGA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                             TONGA


The Kingdom of Tonga comprises 169 small islands scattered over 
a wide area of the South Pacific.  Most of the approximately 
104,000 inhabitants are Polynesian.  Tonga is a constitutional 
monarchy in which political life is dominated by the King, the 
nobility, and a few prominent commoners.  Tonga is fully 
independent and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

The security apparatus is composed of the Tonga Defense 
Services (TDS) and a police force.  The 350-man TDS force is 
responsible to and controlled by the Minister of Defense.

Tonga's economy is based primarily on the cultivation of 
tropical and semitropical crops.  An increasing demand for 
imported manufactured goods and products unavailable locally 
has led to a substantial trade deficit.  This has largely been 
offset by remittances from Tongans employed abroad, overseas 
aid, and, to a lesser degree, tourism.  Remittances from 
Tongans overseas continued to diminish, due in part to 
recessionary economic conditions and in part to a weakening of 
emigrant ties to Tonga.

The principal human rights abuses remain severe restrictions on 
the right of citizens to change their government and 
discrimination against women.  The Constitution, dating from 
1875, has been increasingly challenged by commoners, whom it 
disadvantages.

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 disappearances and no evidence of 
people being abducted, secretly arrested, or clandestinely 
detained.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution forbids torture and inhuman or degrading 
punishment or other such treatment, and there were no reports 
of such practices.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides for the right to judicial 
determination of the legality of arrest, and this is observed 
in practice.  There is no exile, internal or external.  There 
is no preventive detention, although there are no statutory 
limits to the length of time a suspect may be held prior to 
being charged.  The law does not limit access by counsel and 
family members to detained persons.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary, whose top judges are expatriates, is independent 
of the King and the executive branch.  The Court of Appeals, as 
the appellate court of last resort, is the highest court.  The 
King's Privy Council presides over cases relating to disputes 
over titles of nobility and estate boundaries.  The King has 
the right to commute a death sentence in cases of murder or 
treason.  In addition, Tonga's court system consists of the 
Supreme Court (which has original jurisdiction over all major 
cases), the police magistrate's courts, a general court, a 
court martial for the Tongan Defense Services, a court tribunal 
for the police force, and a court of review for the Inland 
Revenue Department.

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and the 
Government honors it in practice.  A court may not summon 
anyone without providing the person a written indictment 
stating the offenses it charges the person committed.  
Defendants are entitled to counsel, and lawyers have free 
access to defendants.  There are no political prisoners.

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

By law and in practice, no one may enter or search the home of 
another or remove any item of property unless in possession of 
a warrant issued by a magistrate.  Neither the State nor 
political organizations intrude arbitrarily into a person's 
private life.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and press.  
Tonga has five newspapers (one of which is government owned) 
and two national magazines.  The Government owns the only radio 
station.  While there is generally little editorializing in the 
government-owned media, opposition opinion appears regularly 
alongside government statements and letters.  A privately owned 
newspaper, Kele'a, openly criticizes the Government without 
government interference.  A Catholic monthly, Taumu'a Lelei, 
also speaks out freely.  The Minister of Police has on occasion 
threatened action against the independent media, but no action 
has ever been taken.  Specific infringements are usually tied 
to a particular event, such as the November 1992 Prodemocracy 
Convention, when live reporting was banned and media attendance 
inhibited.  There were no reports of any restrictions in 1994.  
However, the King signed legislation on January 3 which greatly 
increased the penalties available through the Defamation Act.  
Prodemocracy leader 'Akilisi Pohiva has been a frequent target 
of defamation lawsuits for reports in his independent 
publication.  He also has initiated his own lawsuits against 
others.  Court decisions in these cases have gone both for and 
against Pohiva, based on the merits of the case.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for peaceful assembly and association.  There 
are no significant restrictions.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and it is 
observed in practice.  Missionaries may proselytize freely.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens are free to travel anywhere within the Kingdom and 
abroad.  The law places no restrictions on repatriation.  There 
are no displaced persons in Tonga.

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

Citizens do not have the ability to change their leaders or the 
system of government.  The King and a small group of hereditary 
nobles dominate political life in Tonga.  They assert authority 
largely through their control of substantial land holdings and 
their predominant role in the Legislative Assembly.  The 
Constitution allows the monarch broad powers, many of which do 
not require the endorsement of the legislative branch.  The 
King appoints and presides over the Privy Council, which makes 
major policy decisions.  (When the King is not presiding, the 
Privy Council is called the Cabinet.)  The King also selects 
the Prime Minister and other Cabinet ministers, who hold office 
at his pleasure.

Tonga's unicameral legislature, the Legislative Assembly, 
consists of 12 Cabinet ministers, 9 nobles elected by their 
peers, and 9 people's representatives.  All literate Tongans, 
21 years of age or older, are eligible to vote.  The King 
appoints the Speaker from among the representatives of the 
nobles.  Government ministers generally vote with the nobles' 
representatives as a bloc.  People's representatives sometimes 
vote against the Government.  Elections are held every 3 years, 
most recently in February 1993.  As a result of those 
elections, the Prodemocracy Movement extended its influence 
with the election of strong supporters to six of the nine 
people's representative seats.

Throughout the 1990's people inside and outside the government 
establishment have called for democratic change.  The 
Prodemocracy Movement, formally established in 1992, is 
dedicated to educating the people about their democratic 
rights.  Following its election victory in February 1992, the 
movement turned to drafting proposals for revision of the 1875 
Constitution, most notably proposals for popular election of 
all 30 members of the Assembly and election of the house 
speaker from among Assembly members.

In August the Prodemocracy Movement made history when its 
leaders founded Tonga's first political party "The People's 
Party."  The party continues the goals of the Prodemocracy 
Movement, maintaining that the Monarchy is an inalienable part 
of the national identity, but arguing that the Government must 
become more relevant to today's world.  It seeks greater power 
sharing by the King and greater accountability on the part of 
the Government.  Official reaction to the party has been one of 
disdain, with no effort to repress it or interfere in its 
functioning.

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

While there are no known barriers to the formation of local 
nongovernmental organizations that concern themselves with 
human rights, no such organizations exist in Tonga.  No outside 
organizations are known to have made requests to investigate 
human rights violations.  Tonga is not a member of the United 
Nations.

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

Social, cultural, and economic facilities are available to all 
citizens regardless of race or religion.  However, members of 
the hereditary nobility have substantial advantages in Tongan 
society.  These include control over most of the land and a 
generally privileged status.  Nonetheless, it is possible for 
commoners to rise to Cabinet positions in government and to 
accumulate great wealth and status in the private sector.

     Women

In Tonga's male-dominated society, women generally occupy a 
subordinate role.  While the strong Polynesian cultural 
tradition has discouraged the rise of women to positions of 
leadership, a few have nonetheless become members of the 
legislature and have served in responsible positions in various 
occupations.  However, these women needed connections with the 
nobility or extraordinary luck, and they face severe limits on 
their upward mobility in this tradition-bound society.  Some 
village women are breaking the mold of passive, docile 
followers by leading village-based development projects.  The 
Government has sought to direct the efforts of nongovernmental 
women's organizations (NGO's) by establishing a women's unit 
within the Prime Minister's office.  However, women's groups 
view this as an attempt to coopt them and their programs.  They 
criticize the Government's emphasis on organization, process, 
and control, with few programs of substance.  The NGO's and the 
women's unit disagree on the need for and potential composition 
of a government-sponsored national council of women.

Domestic violence is infrequent.  As a result, the country does 
not have a women's crisis center.  Incidents of wife beating 
that do occur are generally dealt with in traditional ways 
between the families and village elders; abused wives sometimes 
return to their families if mediation fails.

     Children

Child abuse, if it occurs, is rare and has not become a source 
of societal concern.  The Government is committed to children's 
human rights and welfare and provides commensurate funding for 
children's welfare within the context of the total resources 
available to the State.

     People with Disabilities

No mandated provisions for accessibility for the disabled 
exist.  There were no known complaints of discrimination in 
employment, education, or provision of other state services.  
Education of children with special needs has been a 
longstanding priority of Tonga's Queen.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the right to form unions under the 1964 Trade 
Union Act, but to date no unions have been formed, presumably 
because of the small size of the wage economy and the lack of a 
perceived need for unions.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Since no unions have been formed, collective bargaining is not 
practiced.  There is no legislation permitting and protecting 
collective bargaining or the right to organize.  Labor laws and 
regulations are enforced in all sectors of the economy, 
including in the two small export enhancement zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced labor, and it is not practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Child labor is not used in the wage economy, although there is 
no legislation prohibiting it.  Education has been compulsory 
in Tonga since 1882.  Although it is sometimes criticized as 
being of poor quality, education is provided for all children 
through Form 6 (high school).  Compliance rates are good.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Tonga does not have a minimum wage law.  Labor laws and 
regulations, enforced by the Ministry of Labor, Commerce, and 
Industry, limit the workweek to 40 hours.  The Ministry Labor 
enforces laws and regulations reasonably well in the wage 
sector of the economy, particularly on the main island of 
Tongatapu.  Enforcement in agriculture and on the outer islands 
is limited by isolation.

Industrial accidents are rare, as few industries exist that 
would expose workers to significant danger.  Due to these 
factors, there has been little or no work done in Tonga on 
industrial safety standards.


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[end of document]

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