Cablegate: Initial Draft Submission of the 2002 Annual

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E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Initial draft submission of the 2002 Annual
Human Rights Report for the Maldives

Ref: State 151191

1. (U) This message is Sensitive But Unclassified and
Noforn. Please handle accordingly.

2. (SBU/NF) Below is Mission's initial draft submission
of the 2002 Annual Human Rights Report for the Maldives:

Begin Text:

The Republic of Maldives has a parliamentary style of
government with a strong executive. The President
appoints the cabinet, members of the judiciary, and one-
sixth of the Parliament. The President derives
additional influence from his constitutional roles as
the "supreme authority to propagate the tenets of
Islam." Political parties officially are discouraged,
and candidates for the unicameral legislature, the
People's Majlis, run as individuals. The Majlis selects
a single presidential nominee who is approved or
rejected in a national referendum. President Gayoom was
approved for a fifth 5-year term in 1998. The Majlis
must approve all legislation and is empowered to enact
legislation without presidential approval. Civil law is
subordinate to Shari'a (Islamic law), but civil law
generally is applied in criminal and civil cases. The
judiciary is subject to executive influence.

The National Security Service (NSS) performs its duties
under effective civilian control. The NSS includes the
armed forces and police, and its members serve in both
police and military capacities during their careers. The
director of the NSS reports to the minister of defense.
The police division investigates crimes, collects
intelligence, makes arrests, and enforces house arrest.

Tourism and fishing provide employment for more than
one-half of the work force. Tourism accounts for 30
percent of government revenues and roughly 70 percent of
foreign exchange receipts. The population is
approximately 290,000. Agriculture and manufacturing
continue to play a minor role in the economy, which is
constrained by a severe shortage of labor and lack of
arable land. In 2001 gross domestic product (GDP) per
capita was $2,100 (25,892 Rufiyaa), and the GDP growth
rate was approximately 2 percent.

The government generally respected the human rights of
its citizens; however, problems remain in some areas.
The President's power to appoint a significant portion
of the Parliament constrains citizens' ability to change
their government. The Government limits freedom of
assembly and association, and does not permit the
formation of political parties. There were significant
restrictions on the freedom of religion. In the past,
the Government has detained arbitrarily and expelled
foreigners for proselytizing and detained citizens who
converted. Although the Government has undertaken a
number of programs addressing women's issues, women
faced a variety of legal and social disadvantages. The
Government also restricted certain worker rights. The
Press Council's balanced handling of issues related to
journalistic standards allowed a greater diversity of
views in the media.


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

A. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports of the arbitrary or unlawful
deprivation of life committed by the Government or its

B. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated

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

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no
reports that government officials employed them. There
were no credible reports of beatings or other
mistreatment of persons in police custody during the
year. Some sources claim that the police have on
occasion tortured anti-government detainees. There were
no reports of public floggings (which are allowed under
Shari'a as interpreted in the country), as in past
years. Punishments usually are confined to fines,
compensatory payment, house arrest, imprisonment, or
banishment to a remote atoll. The government generally
permits those who are banished to receive visits by
family members.

The country's prison was destroyed by fire in 1999.
Following the fire, the government transferred prisoners
to a temporary facility, which houses a fluctuating
population of approximately 300 inmates.

Prison conditions at the existing facility, including
food and housing, generally are adequate. Prisoners are
allowed to work and are given the opportunity for
regular exercise and recreation. Spouses are allowed
privacy during visits with incarcerated partners. The
Government is surveying prison facilities in other
countries to incorporate international standards and
improvements in the reconstruction of the prison, and it
has requested training for prison guards. Women are held
separately from men. Children are held separately from
adults. Persons arrested for drug use are sent to a
"drug rehabilitation center" (on a space available
basis) where sleeping quarters and most activities are
segregated; although common areas are shared by all.

The Government has permitted prison visits by foreign
diplomats. The issue of visits by human rights groups
was not known to have arisen during the year.

D. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution states that no person shall be arrested
or detained for more than 24 hours without being
informed of the grounds for arrest or detention.

Police initiate investigations based on suspicion of
criminal activity or in response to written complaints
from citizens, police officers, or government officials.
They are not required to obtain warrants for arrests.
Based on the results of police investigations, the
Attorney General refers cases to the appropriate court.
The authorities generally keep the details of a case
confidential until they are confident that the charges

are likely to be upheld. In the past, persons have been
held for long periods without charge, but there were no
reports of such occurrences during the year.

Depending upon the charges, a suspect may remain free,
be detained in prison, or placed under house arrest for
15 days during investigations. The President may extend
pretrial detention for an additional 30 days, but in
most cases the suspect is released if not brought to
trial within 15 days. Those who are released pending
trial may not leave a specific atoll. Within 24 hours of
an arrest, an individual must be told of the grounds for
the arrest. An individual can then be held for 7 days.
If no legal proceedings have been initiated within 7
days, the case is referred to an anonymous 3-member
civilian commission appointed by the President that can
authorize an additional 15 days of detention. After that
time, if legal proceedings still have not been
initiated, a judge must sanction the continued detention
on a monthly basis. Although there is no right to legal
counsel during police interrogation, detainees are
granted access to family members. There is no provision
for bail.

The government may prohibit access to a telephone and
nonfamily visits to those under house arrest. While
there have been no reported cases of incommunicado
detention in the past few years, the law does not
provide safeguards against this abuse.

According to Amnesty International and other sources, in
early 2002, four individuals were arrested for
distributing Islamist and anti-government literature.
After one of the men was released, three of the men were
standing trial for alleged extremism and subversion as
of summer 2002. In addition, a Muslim clergyman
reportedly was questioned and temporarily detained in
June 2002 during an investigation into accusations that
he had made Islamist-tinged sermons.

Member of Parliament (MP) Abdullah Shakir was arrested
in July 2001 and released the following month. There is
some dispute as to why he was arrested; the government
states he was arrested on a purely civil matter, which
has since been resolved, but international human rights
groups claim that he was arrested for his support of a
petition to form political parties in the country (see
section 2.b.).

MP Mohammed Nasheed was convicted of theft in early
2002. He was subsequently expelled from the Majlis. He
was reportedly released from internal exile in late
August. Some have claimed that the government framed
Nasheed because Nasheed signed the petition mentioned
above supporting the formation of political parties (see
section 2.b.)

There were no reports of the external exile of citizens
during the year. In the past, the government sometimes
has banished convicted criminals to inhabited atolls
away from their home communities, but there were no
reports of this occurring during the year.

E. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution does not provide for an independent
judiciary, and the judiciary is subject to executive
influence. In addition to his authority to review high
court decisions, the President influences the judiciary
through his power to appoint and dismiss judges, all of
whom serve at his pleasure and are not subject to
confirmation by the Majlis. The President also may grant
pardons and amnesties.

There are three courts: one for civil matters; one for
criminal cases; and one for family and juvenile cases.
On the recommendation of the Ministry of Justice, the
President appoints a principal judge for each court.
There is also a High Court in Male, which is independent
of the Justice Ministry and which handles a wide range
of cases, including politically sensitive ones. The High
Court also acts as court of appeals. High Court rulings
can be reviewed by a five-member advisory council
appointed by the President. The President also has
authority to affirm judgments of the High Court, to
order a second hearing, or to overturn the court's
decision. In addition to the Male court, there are 204
general courts on the islands.

There are no jury trials. Most trials are public and
conducted by judges and magistrates trained in Islamic,
civil, and criminal law. Magistrates usually adjudicate
cases on outer islands, but when more complex legal
questions are involved, the Justice Ministry will send
more experienced judges to handle the case.

The Constitution provides that an accused person be
presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that an
accused person has the right to defend himself "in
accordance with Shari'a." During a trial, the accused
also may call witnesses, and be assisted by a lawyer.
Courts do not provide lawyers to indigent defendants.
Judges question the concerned parties and attempt to
establish the facts of a case.

Civil law is subordinate to Shari'a, which is applied in
situations not covered by civil law as well as in
certain acts such as divorce and adultery. Courts
adjudicating matrimonial and criminal cases generally do
not allow legal counsel in court because, according to
local interpretation of Shari'a, all answers and
submissions should come directly from the parties
involved. However, the High Court allows legal counsel
in all cases, including those in which the rights to
counsel was denied in lower court. Under the country's
Islamic practice, the testimony of two women is required
to equal that of one man in matters involving Shari'a,
such as adultery, finance, and inheritance. In other
cases, the testimony of men and women are equal.

There were no confirmed reports of political prisoners.
(see section 1.d. for information on detainees.)

F. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or

The Constitution prohibits security officials from
opening or reading letters, telegrams, and wireless
messages or monitoring telephone conversations, "except
as expressly provided by law." The NSS may open the mail
of private citizens and monitor telephone conversations
if authorized in the course of a criminal investigation.

Although the Constitution provides that residential
premises and dwellings should be inviolable, there is no
legal requirement for search or arrest warrants. The
Attorney General or a commanding officer of the police
must approve the search of private residences.
The Government policy to encourage a concentration of
the population on the larger islands continued, and the
policy generally was successful in moving a significant
number of citizens to the larger islands.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

A. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law prohibits public statements that are contrary to
Islam, threaten the public order, or are libelous. The
Penal Code prohibits inciting citizens against the
Government. However, an amendment to the penal code
decriminalized "true account(s)" by journalists of
governmental actions.

Regulations that make publishers responsible for the
content of the material they published remain in effect,
but no legal actions against publishers were initiated
during the year.

The Press Council is composed of lawyers, private and
government media representatives, and other government
officials. The Council reviews charges of journalistic
misconduct (advising the Ministry of Information, Arts,
and Culture on measures to be taken against reporters,
when appropriate) and promotes professional standards
within the media by recommending reforms and making
suggestions for improvement. Private journalists have
said that they are satisfied with the Council's
objectivity and performance. The Government agreed that
private journalists, rather than the Government, should
take responsibility for preparation of a journalistic
code of ethics. Individual newspapers and journals
established their own ethical guidelines in many cases.

Most major media outlets are owned either by the
government or its sympathizers. Nonetheless, these
sympathetic outlets do on occasion strongly criticize
the Government.

Over 200 newspapers and periodicals are registered with
the Government, only some of which publish on a regular
basis. Aafathis, a morning daily, often is critical of
government policy, as is the Monday Times, a weekly
English language magazine. Two dailies, Miadhu and
Haveeru, are progovernment.

The Government owns and operates the only television and
radio stations. It does not interfere with foreign
broadcasts or with the sale of satellite receivers.
Reports drawn from foreign newscasts are aired on the
government television station. Cable News Network (CNN)
is shown daily, uncensored, on local television.

There were no reports of Government censorship of the
electronic media; nor were there closures of any
publications or reports of intimidation of journalists.

Television news and public affairs programming routinely
discussed topics of concern and freely criticized
government performance. Regular press conferences with
government ministers instituted in 1995 continued.
Journalists are more self-confident than in the past;
self-censorship appears to have diminished, although it
remains a problem. Since it is not clear when criticism
violates the law prohibiting public statements that are
contrary to Islam, threaten the public, or are libelous,
journalists and publishers continue to watch what they
say, particularly on political topics, to avoid censure
by the Government.

There are no legal prohibitions on the import of foreign
publications except for those containing pornography or
material otherwise deemed objectionable to Islamic
values. No seizures of foreign publications were
reported during the year.

The Internet is available. There were no government
attempts, other than blocking pornographic material, to
interfere with its use.

There are no reported restrictions on academic freedom.
Some teachers reportedly are vocal in their criticism of
the government.

B. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly
"peaceably and in a manner that does not contravene the
law;" however, the Government imposes limits on this
right in practice. The Home Ministry permits public
political meetings during electoral campaigns, but
limits them to small gatherings on private premises.

The Government registers clubs and other private
associations if they do not contravene Islamic or civil
law. The Government imposes some limits on freedom of
association. While not forbidden by law, the President
officially discourages political parties on the grounds
that they are inappropriate to the homogeneous nature of
society. The President reaffirmed this position when he
decided against a petition to form a political party in
June 2001. One signatory to the petition was M.P.
Abdullah shakir.

Shakir later was arrested, but was released soon
thereafter. Some observers believe that his arrest was
connected to his support for the creation of political
parties in the country, but the Government maintains
that he was arrested in connection with a civil matter
(see section 1.e.). There were multiple unconfirmed
reports that the Government has harassed other
politicians who signed the petition to form political
parties. Mohammed Nasheed, for example, lost his seat
in the Majlis when he was convicted of petty theft in
early 2002. He was reportedly released from internal
exile in late August. Some observers claim that the
theft charge was trumped up to punish Nasheed for
supporting a movement to form a political party and for
his criticism of President Gayoom (see section 3).
Despite these reports, many Majlis members were active
and outspoken critics of the government and called for
closer parliamentary examination of government policy.

Although not prohibited, there are no active local human
rights groups in the country. The Government has been
responsive to requests from foreign governments and
international organizations to examine human rights
issues. While the Government also does not prohibit
labor unions, it recognizes neither the right to form
them nor the right to strike. There were no reports of
efforts to form unions or to strike during the year.

C. Freedom of Religion

Freedom of Religion is restricted significantly. The
Constitution designates the Sunni branch of Islam as the
official state religion, and the Government interprets
this provision to impose a requirement that citizens be
Muslims. The practice of any religion other than Islam
is prohibited by law. However, non-Muslim foreign
residents are allowed to practice their religion if they
do so privately and do not encourage citizens to
participate. President Gayoom repeatedly has stated that
no other religion should be allowed in the country, and
the Home Affairs Ministry has announced special programs
to safeguard and strengthen religious unity. The
President, the members of the People's Majlis, and
cabinet members must be Muslims.

There are no places of worship for adherents of other
religions. The government prohibits the importation of
icons and religious statues, but it generally permits
the importation of individual religious literature, such
as Bibles, for personal use. It also prohibits non-
Muslim clergy and missionaries from proselytizing and
conducting public worship services. Conversion of a
Muslim to another faith is a violation of Shari'a and
may result in punishment. In the past, would-be converts
have been detained and counseled regarding their
conversion from Islam. Foreigners have been detained and
expelled for proselytizing. Unlike in previous years,
there were no reports of foreigners being detained for

Islamic instruction is a mandatory part of the school
curriculum, and the Government funds the salaries of
religious instructors. The Government has established a
Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs to provide guidance
on religious matters. The Government also has set
standards for individuals who conduct Friday services at
mosques to ensure adequate theological qualifications,
and to ensure that services are not dominated by
radicals. A Muslim clergyman accused of making an
Islamist tinged sermon was reportedly detained in June
2002, but was quickly released (see section 1.d.).

Under the country's Islamic practice, certain legal
provisions discriminate against women (see sections
1.e., 3, and 5).
D. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Citizens are free to travel at home and abroad, to
emigrate, and to return. Because of overcrowding, the
government discourages migration to the capital island
of Male or its surrounding atoll. Foreign workers often
are housed at their worksites. Their ability to travel
freely is restricted, and they are not allowed to mingle
with the local population on the islands.

The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or
refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967
Protocol. The Government has not formulated a policy
regarding refugees, asylees, or first asylum. The issue
of the provision of first asylum did not arise during
the year. The Government cooperates with the office of
the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. There were no
reports of the forced return of persons to a country
where they feared persecution.

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

Citizens' ability to change their government is
constrained, and the strong executive exerts significant
influence over both the legislature and the judiciary.
Under the Constitution, the Majlis chooses a single
presidential nominee, who must be a Sunni Muslim male,
from a list of self-announced candidates for the
nomination. Would-be nominees for president are not
permitted to campaign for the nomination. The nominee is
then confirmed or rejected by secret ballot in a
nationwide referendum. From a field of five candidates,
President Gayoom was nominated by the Majlis and was
confirmed by referendum for a fifth 5-year term in 1998.
Observers from the South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation found the referendum to be free and fair.

The Office of the President is the most powerful
political institution. The Constitution gives Shari'a
preeminence over civil law and designates the President
as the "supreme authority to propagate the tenets" of
Islam. The President's authority to appoint one-sixth of
the Majlis members, which is one-third of the total
needed for nominating the President, provides the
President with a power base and strong political
leverage. The President also is Commander in Chief of
the armed forces, the Minister of Defense and National
Security, the Minister of Finance and Treasury, and the
Governor of the Maldivian Monetary Authority.

The elected members of the Majlis, who must be Muslims,
serve 5-year terms. All citizens over 21 years of age
may vote. Of the body's 50 members, 42 are elected and
the president appoints 8 members. Individuals or groups
are free to approach members of the Majlis with
grievances or opinions on proposed legislation, and any
member may introduce legislation. There are no political
parties, which are officially discouraged (see section

Relations between the government and the Majlis have
been constructive. The government may introduce
legislation but may not enact a bill into law without
the Majlis' approval. The Majlis may enact legislation
into law without presidential assent if the president
fails to act on the proposal within 30 days or if a bill
is repassed with a two-thirds majority. In the past few
years, the Majlis increasingly has become independent,
challenging government policies and rejecting
government-proposed legislation.

For the past several years, the Majlis has held a
question period during which members may question
government ministers about public policy. Debate on the
floor since the question period was instituted has
become increasingly sharp and open. Elections to the
people's Majlis were last held in 1999. According to
observers from the South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC), the elections were generally free
and fair.

A by-election was held in April following the
controversial expulsion of MP Mohammed Nasheed from the
Majlis upon his conviction for theft (see section 2.b.).
The election itself was generally thought to be free and
fair, with the pro-government candidate winning in a
competitive race.
The percentage of women in government and politics does
not correspond to their percentage of the population.
Women are not eligible to become president but may hold
other government posts. However, for reasons of
tradition and culture, relatively few women seek or are
selected for public office. Women reportedly have been
offered the position of Atoll Chief in the past, but in
December 2001 was the first time a woman accepted the
position. In order to increase participation by women
in the political process, the Government continued a
political awareness campaign in the atolls. In the
November 1999 elections, six women ran for seats and two
were elected. During the 1999 elections, observers from
the SAARC noted that women participated equally in the
electoral process. Following the elections, President
Gayoom appointed an additional three women to the

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

Although not prohibited, there are no active local human
rights groups. The government has been very responsive
to the interest of foreign governments in examining
human rights issues. A number of international human
rights organizations, such as UNICEF, are present in the
country. The government cooperates with these
international organizations.

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

The Constitution provides for the equality of all
citizens before the law, but there is no specific
provision to prohibit discrimination based on race, sex,
religion, disability, or social status. Women
traditionally have been disadvantaged, particularly in
terms of the application of Shari'a, in matters such as
divorce, education, inheritance, and testimony in legal


Women's rights advocates agree that domestic violence
and other forms of violence against women are not
widespread. There are no firm data on the extent of
violence against women because of the value attached to
privacy. Police officials report that they receive few
complaints of assaults against women. Rape and other
violent crimes against women are extremely rare. Under
Shari'a the penalty would be flogging, banishment, or
imprisonment for up to 5 years.

Although women traditionally have played a subordinate
role in society, they participate in public life and
gradually are participating at higher levels. December
24, 2001, for example, was the first time a woman
accepted a nomination to the position of Atoll Chief
(see section 3). There is also one woman minister, the
Minister of Women's Affairs and Social Welfare. Women
constitute close to 38 percent of government employees,
and approximately 10 percent of uniformed NSS personnel.
Well-educated women maintain that cultural norms, not
the law, inhibit women's education and career choices.
However, during the year, the Government continued law
literacy programs and workshops on gender and political
awareness in the outer atolls to make women aware of
their legal rights. The Government also has built 15
women's centers in the atolls, which are facilities
where family health workers can provide medical
services. The centers also provide libraries and space
for meetings and other activities with a focus on the
development of women. In addition, in July 2001 the
Maldivian Government passed a family law that makes 18
the minimum age of marriage for women. This law is seen
as a way to encourage women to continue higher

Under Islamic practice, husbands may divorce their wives
more easily than vice versa, absent any mutual agreement
to divorce. Shari'a also governs intestate inheritance,
granting male heirs twice the share of female heirs. A
woman's testimony is equal only to one-half of that of a
man in matters involving adultery, finance, and
inheritance (see section 1.e.). Women who work for wages
receive pay equal to that of men in the same positions.

In 2000 the Cabinet created a Gender Equality Council to
serve as an advisory body to the Government to help
strengthen the role of women in society and to help
ensure equal participation by women in the country's
development; however, there were no reports of specific
council actions during the year.

The government does not have a program of compulsory
education, but it provides universal access to free
primary education. The percentage of school-age children
in school in 2001 was as follows: (grades 1 to 5) 99
percent; (grades 6 to 7) 96 percent; and grades (8 to
10) 51 percent. Of the students enrolled, 49 percent are
female and 51 percent are male. In many instances,
education for girls is curtailed after the seventh
grade, largely because parents do not allow girls to
leave their home island for an island having a secondary
school. Nevertheless, women enjoy a higher literacy rate
(98 percent) than men (96 percent). The Government is
committed to the protection of children's rights and
welfare. The Government is working with UNICEF to
implement the rights provided for in the UN Convention
on the Rights of the Child, which the Maldivian Majlis
ratified in 1991. The Government maintains a National
Council for the Protection of the Rights of the Child.
Government policy provides for equal access to
educational and health programs for both male and female
children. In May 2002, the Government ratified two
Optional Protocols, on the Children in Armed Conflict
and Sale of Children, of the UN Convention on Children.

Children's rights are incorporated into law, which
specifically protects them from both physical and
psychological abuse, including abuse at the hands of
teachers or parents. The Ministry of Women's Affairs and
Social Welfare has the authority to enforce this law,
takes its responsibility seriously, and has received
strong popular support for its efforts. Although unable
to provide an exact number, the Ministry noted that
there continued to be reports of child abuse during the
year, including sexual abuse. Penalties for the sexual
abuse of children range from banishment to imprisonment
for up to 3 years. It is not known if there were any
prosecutions for child abuse or child sexual abuse
during the year. The Government continues to review the
law to see if improvements and additional protections
are necessary.

Persons with Disabilities

There is no law that specifically addresses the rights
of persons with physical or mental disabilities. In 1999
the Government initiated a survey that identified 30,000
persons with disabilities in the country (primarily
hearing and visually impaired). The Government has
established programs and provided services for persons
with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities usually are cared for by their
families. When family care is unavailable, persons with
disabilities are kept in the institute for needy people,
which also assists elderly persons. The Government
provides free medication for all mentally ill persons in
the islands, and mobile teams regularly visit mentally
ill patients. In 1999 the Government enacted and is
reportedly enforcing a new building code, which mandated
that all new government buildings and jetties must be
accessible to persons with disabilities.

Section 6 Worker Rights

A. The Right of Association

While the Government does not expressly prohibit unions,
it recognizes neither the right to form them nor the
right to strike. There were no reports of efforts to
form unions or of strikes during the year. However,
small groups of similarly employed workers with mutual
interests (for example fishermen) have formed
associations, which include employers as well as
employees. These associations may address a variety of
issues, including workers' rights.

The work force consists of between 70,000 and 75,000
persons, including expatriate labor and seasonal and
part-time workers. The approximately 29,200 foreigners
who work in the country make up almost half of the
workers in the formal sector; most are employed in
hotels, in factories, on construction projects, finance,
education, and other service industries. The Government
employs approximately 26,700 persons, both permanent and
temporary. It estimates that the manufacturing sector
employs approximately 15 percent of the labor force and
tourism another 10 percent.
Although workers can affiliate with international labor
federations, this generally has not been the case. It is
believed some seamen have joined such federations,
In 1995 the U.S. Government suspended the country's
eligibility for tariff preferences under the U.S.
Generalized System of Preferences because the Government
failed to take steps to afford internationally
recognized worker rights to workers.

B. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law neither prohibits nor protects workers' rights
to organize and bargain collectively. Wages in the
private sector are set by contract between employers and
employees and are usually based on the rates for similar
work in the public sector. There are no laws
specifically prohibiting antiunion discrimination by
employers against union members or organizers.

There are no export processing zones.

C. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law does not prohibit forced or compulsory labor;
however, there were no reports that such practices
occurred. The Government does not specifically prohibit
forced and bonded labor by children; however, there were
no reports that such practices occurred.

D. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for

There is no compulsory education law, but almost 98
percent of school-age children to grade 7 are enrolled
in school (see section 5). The law bars children under
14 years of age from "places of waged work and from work
that is not suitable for that child's age, health, or
physical ability or that might obstruct the education or
adversely affect the mentality or behavior of the
child." The law also prohibits government employment of
children under the age of 16. There are no reports of
children being employed in the small industrial sector,
although children work in family fishing, agricultural,
and commercial activities. The hours of work of young
workers are not limited specifically by statute. The
Government does not specifically prohibit forced and
bonded labor by children; however, there were no reports
that such practices occurred. A unit for children's
rights in the Ministry of Women's Affairs and Social
Welfare is responsible only for monitoring compliance
with the child labor regulations, not enforcement.

E. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The regulations for employee relations specify the terms
that must be incorporated into employment contracts and
address such issues as training, work hours, safety,
remuneration, leave, fines, and termination. There is no
national minimum wage for the private sector, although
the Government has established wage floors for certain
kinds of work such as government employment, which
provides a decent standard of living for a worker and
family. Given the severe shortage of labor, employers
must offer competitive pay and conditions to attract
skilled workers.

There are no statutory provisions for hours of work, but
the regulations require that a work contract specify the
normal work and overtime hours on a weekly or monthly
basis. In the public sector, a 7 hour day and a 5 day
workweek have been established through administrative
circulars from the President's office. Overtime pay in
the public sector was instituted in 1990. There are no
laws governing health and safety conditions. There are
regulatory requirements that employers provide a safe
working environment and ensure the observance of safety
measures. It is unclear whether workers can remove
themselves from unsafe working conditions without
risking the loss of their jobs. The Ministry of Trade,
Industries, and Labor has a labor dispute settlement
unit to resolve wage and labor disputes and to visit
worksites and enforce labor regulations.

With the help of the ILO, two draft labor laws were
prepared in 1998: one to address issues such as the
right of association, the right to organize, and
acceptable work conditions related to health,
environment, employer-employee relations, leave, and
termination, and the other to deal with social security,
pensions, and provident funds. These laws had not been
enacted by year's end.
F. Trafficking in Persons
The law does not prohibit trafficking in persons;
however, there were no reports that persons were
trafficked to, from, or within the country. The Attorney
General's office believes that should a case arise, it
could be addressed under Shari'a.

End Text.


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