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Title:  Portugal Human Rights Practices, 1995   
Author:  U.S. Department of State    
Date:  March 1996    
 
 
 
 
                                   PORTUGAL* 
 
 
 
* A separate report on Macau, recognized by both China and Portugal as 
Chinese territory under Portuguese administration, follows this report. 
 
 
The Republic of Portugal is a constitutional democracy with a president, 
an independent judiciary, a prime minister and a legislative assembly 
freely elected by secret ballot in multiparty elections. 
 
Internal security is primarily the responsibility of the Ministries of 
Justice and Internal Administration.  Security forces are controlled by, 
and responsive to, the Government. 
 
Portugal has a market-based economy and is a member of the European 
Union.  An increasing proportion of the population is employed in 
services, while employment in agriculture continues to decline and has 
been static or declining slightly in the industrial sector.   
 
Citizens enjoy a broad range of civil and other human rights which the 
Government generally respects.  Civil rights are outlined in the 
Constitution with specific reference to the Universal Declaration of 
Human Rights.  The principal human rights problem is the occasional 
beatings of detainees or prisoners by police or prison personnel.  
Credible--although infrequent--reports of this problem continued in 
1995, as did reports of poor conditions in prisons.  Domestic violence 
against women is reportedly common.  
 
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 forbids torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or 
punishment, and the use of evidence obtained under torture in criminal 
proceedings.  An independent Ombudsman, chosen by the Legislative 
Assembly (parliament), investigates complaints of mistreatment by police 
and prison authorities. 
 
The Government and Amnesty International (AI) have continued their 
dialogue on allegations of police brutality.  One case of mistreatment 
of two citizens by the National Republican Guard (GNR), which AI had 
been following since 1992, was apparently resolved by the sentencing of 
several GNR soldiers to prison terms.  They remained free on appeal, 
however.  At the same time, new credible allegations of police brutality 
were lodged, including a widely publicized incident involving injuries 
to a prominent lawyer and employee of the Lisbon city government.  AI 
and the United Nations Committee Against Torture lamented the delay in 
investigating such allegations.  While the Government admits to some 
problems with control and supervision of police officers, it 
characterizes the operation of the public security forces as positive 
overall and says violations of citizens' rights by the security forces 
are "exceptional cases." 
 
The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and 
Inhuman or Degrading Punishment and the International Observer of 
Prisons maintained a dialogue with the Government on prison conditions.  
Based on visits to prisons, these observers noted instances of brutal 
treatment by guards and general failure to meet minimum standards.  
Corrective steps such as improving access to counsel and to medical 
treatment have been recommended.  A lack of resources inhibits progress 
in this area. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
Under the law, an investigating judge determines whether an arrested 
person should be detained, released on bail, or released outright.  
Persons may not be held more than 48 hours without appearing before an 
investigating judge.  Investigative detention is limited to a maximum of 
6 months for each suspected crime.  If a formal charge has not been 
filed within that period, the detainee must be released.  In cases of 
serious crimes, for example murder or armed robbery, or of more than one 
suspect, investigative detention may be for up to 2 years and may be 
extended by a judge to 3 years in extraordinary circumstances.  A 
suspect in investigative detention must be brought to trial within 18 
months of being formally charged.  If the suspect is not in detention, 
there is no specified period for going to trial.  A detainee has access 
to lawyers; the State assumes the cost if necessary. 
 
Exile and incommunicado detention are illegal and not practiced. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The judiciary is independent and impartial.  The judicial system 
provides citizens with a fair legal process; it has been much 
criticized, however, for a large backlog of pending trials resulting 
from inefficient functioning of the courts.  The court system, laid out 
in the Constitution, consists of a  
 
Constitutional Court, a Supreme Court of Justice, and judicial courts of 
first and second instance.  There is also a court of accounts, which 
functions as a court of appeal.   
 
All trials are public except those which may offend the dignity of the 
victim, such as in cases of sexual abuse of children.  The accused is 
presumed innocent.  In trials for serious crimes, a panel of three 
judges presides.  For lesser crimes, a single judge presides.  At the 
request of the accused, a jury may be used in trials for major crimes; 
in practice, requests for jury trials are extremely rare.  
 
There were no reports of political prisoners. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or  
Correspondence 
 
The Constitution forbids such practices, and its provisions are 
respected in practice.  Violations are subject to effective legal 
sanctions. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
Freedom of speech and the press is provided for in the Constitution, and 
the Government respects these rights in practice.  An independent press, 
an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system 
combine to ensure freedom of speech and of the press, including academic 
freedom.   
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The law provides for these rights, and the authorities generally respect 
these provisions. 
 
   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 and laws provide for these rights, and the Government 
respects them in practice. 
 
The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees 
and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees.  Persons who 
qualify as refugees are entitled to residence permits.  There were no 
reports of forced expulsions of those having a valid claim to refugee 
status. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Portugal is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy.  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 on the basis of universal suffrage. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
A number of local and international human rights groups operate freely, 
investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.  
Government officials generally cooperate, although most groups complain 
of slow investigations or remedial actions. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Constitution forbids discrimination based on ancestry, sex, race, 
language, territory of origin, religion, political or ideological 
convictions, education, economic situation, or social condition, and the 
Government enforces these prohibitions. 
 
   Women 
 
Women's groups continued to draw attention to the largely hidden but 
reportedly common problem of domestic and other violence against women.  
The law provides for criminal penalties in cases of violence by a 
spouse.  Traditional societal attitudes discourage many battered women 
from recourse to the judicial system.  Women's groups complain that 
Portugal lacks institutions established specifically to provide relief 
to battered women.  The judicial system shows no apparent reluctance to 
prosecute suspects accused of abusing women. 
 
The Civil Code provides for full legal equality for women.  Sexual 
harassment, an issue gaining public attention, is covered in the Penal 
Code as a sex crime, but only if perpetrated by a superior and in the 
workplace.  As in the case of violence, socially ingrained attitudes 
discourage many women from taking advantage of their legal protection in 
this area. 
 
Women are increasingly represented in universities, business, science, 
government, and the professions.  Traditional attitudes of male 
dominance persist but are changing gradually.  The Commission for the 
Equality and Rights of Women, an official organization under the 
Ministry of Employment and Social Security, is a leading and effective 
advocate of women's rights. 
 
   Children 
 
The Government is committed to the rights and welfare of children, and 
has established mechanisms to protect children through the Institute for 
Support of Children.  This governmental body complains that it has not 
been allocated adequate funds to fulfill its responsibilities.  Most of 
the funds it does receive are spent on campaigns publicizing the abuse 
of child labor, which occurs mainly in low technology home based 
industries (see Section 6.d.).  Otherwise there is no pattern of 
societal abuse of children.  
 
   People With Disabilities 
 
There is no discrimination against disabled persons in employment, 
education, or the provision of other state services.  Their access to 
public facilities is mandated by legislation, which is generally 
complied with.  There is no such legislation covering private businesses 
or other facilities. 
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
The principal minority groups are immigrants, legal and illegal, from 
Portugal's former African colonies; there is also a resident Roma 
population.  African immigrants continued to organize to protest what 
they perceive as racism.  The press has continued to report occasional 
racially motivated incidents perpetrated by small unorganized skinhead 
groups.  Government denials that significant racist offenses have 
occurred were called into question by an incident in June in which a 
large number of skinheads rampaged through a downtown Lisbon 
neighborhood, assaulting numerous persons they believed to be African 
immigrants and killing one.  The police pursued this and other such 
incidents as vigorously as other crimes. 
 
Section 6    Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
Workers in both the private and public sectors have the right to 
associate freely and to establish committees in the workplace to defend 
their interests.  The Constitution provides for the right to establish 
unions by profession or industry.  Trade union associations have the 
right to participate in the preparation of labor legislation.  Strikes 
are constitutionally permitted for any reason, including political 
causes; they are common and generally are resolved through direct 
negotiations.  The authorities respect all provisions of the law on 
labor's rights. 
 
Two principal labor federations exist.  There are no restrictions on the 
formation of additional labor federations.  Unions function without 
hindrance by the Government and are closely associated with political 
parties.  There are no restrictions on the ability of unions to join 
federations or on federations affiliating with international labor 
bodies. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Unions are free to organize without interference by the Government or by 
employers.  Collective bargaining is provided for in the Constitution 
and practiced extensively in the public and private sectors. 
 
Collective bargaining disputes rarely lead to prolonged strike action.  
Should a long strike occur in an essential sector such as health, 
energy, or transportation, the Government may order the workers back to 
work for a specific period.  This did not occur in 1995.  The Government 
has rarely invoked this power, in part because most strikes are limited 
to periods of 1 to 3 days.  The law requires a "minimum level of 
service" to be provided during strikes in essential sectors, but this 
has been infrequently applied.  When it has, minimum levels of service 
have been established by agreement between the Government and the 
striking unions, although unions have complained, including to the 
International Labor Organization, that the minimum levels have been set 
too high.  When collective bargaining fails, the Government may appoint 
a mediator, at the request of either management or labor. 
 
The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, and the authorities enforce 
this prohibition in practice.  Complaints are promptly examined by the 
General Directorate of Labor. 
 
There are no export processing zones. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
Forced labor is prohibited and does not occur. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The minimum employment age is 15 years.  It is to be raised to 16 years 
when the period of 9 years of compulsory schooling takes effect on 
January 1, 1997.  The two main labor federations and observers from 
other European countries have charged that a number of "clandestine" 
companies in the textile, shoe, and construction industries exploit 
child labor. 
 
The Government's General Labor Inspectorate, which is responsible for 
enforcement of child labor laws, admits that thousands of children under 
age 15 are employed illegally, but says the number is declining.  The 
Inspectorate's funding has been increased, and the number of inspectors 
and inspections continues to grow.  The Inspectorate has levied 
increasingly large fines on employers who are found employing child 
labor.  Government statistics derived from labor inspections indicate 
that the incidence of child labor has been greatly reduced in recent 
years.  Critics rejoin that most children are employed in home workshops 
and other settings beyond the reach of inspectors. 
 
Union observers agree that the number of illegally employed children is 
falling, but they attribute this to the general rise in unemployment.  
Unions continued to form local alliances with church groups, citizens 
groups, and local government bodies to address the multiple social and 
economic causes of child labor.  While some improvements have been 
effected, the Government does not allocate resources sufficient to 
address the problem fully. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
Minimum-wage legislation covers full-time workers, as well as rural 
workers and domestic employees age 18 or over.  The monthly minimum wage 
of about $340 (Esc 52,000) is generally enforced.  Even with rent 
control and various social assistance subsidies, it is difficult for a 
single-income family to maintain a decent standard of living on the 
minimum wage, particularly in urban areas. 
 
The law limits regular hours of work to 8 hours per day and 44 hours per 
week.  Overtime is limited to 2 hours a day, up to 200 hours annually.  
Work during what is normally a day off is restricted to 8 hours.  These 
limits are respected in practice.  Workers are guaranteed 22 days of 
paid annual leave per year.  The Ministry of Employment and Social 
Security monitors compliance through its regional inspectors. 
 
Employers are legally responsible for accidents at work and are required 
by law to carry accident insurance.  An existing body of legislation 
regulates safety and health, but labor unions continue to argue for 
stiffer laws.  The General Directorate of Hygiene and Labor Security 
develops safety standards, and the General Labor Inspectorate is 
responsible for enforcement, but the Inspectorate lacks sufficient funds 
and inspectors to combat the problem of work accidents effectively.  A 
relatively large proportion of accidents is in the construction 
industry.  Poor environmental controls in textile production also cause 
considerable concern.  While the ability of workers to remove themselves 
from situations where these hazards exist is limited, it is difficult to 
fire workers for any reason.  Workers injured on the job rarely initiate 
lawsuits. 
 
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[end of document]

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