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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Mongolia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1996
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Mongolia, 30 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3540.html [accessed 25 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
MONGOLIA

 

Mongolia continued to move slowly and steadily in its transition from a highly centralized Communist-led state to a full-fledged multiparty democracy. The Prime Minister is nominated by the President and approved by the State Great Hural (SGH), the national legislature. The Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP), the lineal descendant of the former ruling Communist Party, dominates the unicameral legislature. In part due to the multiplicity of candidates, the MPRP garnered 71 of the 76 seats in the SGH with less than 60 percent of the popular vote in the 1992 parliamentary elections. This imbalance, which prompted a lingering sense of disenfranchisement among opposition parties, led in the autumn of 1995 to the consideration of changes in the parliamentary electoral law from a strictly majority system to a mixed one of majority and proportional representation. In January 1996, the ruling MPRP passed, over the objections of the other parties and in a move protested by the President, a law mandating the creation of 76 new single constituencies to be defined sometime before the June 1996 parliamentary elections. The popularly elected President and the Prime Minister together nominate cabinet officers, who must also receive SGH approval.

Security forces are under civilian control. Reduced government spending caused continued downsizing of the military. The Mongolian Central Intelligence Agency (MCIA) is responsible for internal security; its head has ministerial status and reports directly to the Prime Minister. Some members of the security forces committed occasional human rights abuses on detainees and prisoners.

The economy, while still featuring yearly inflation rates of 40 to 50 percent, continued to expand and strengthen. Its basis remains copper production, livestock raising by the majority of the nonurban population, and related food-, wool-, and hide-processing industries which supply both internal needs and goods for export. A growing trade and small entrepreneurial sector in urban areas provides basic consumer goods. Minerals, particularly copper, continue to provide the bulk of export earnings. An unreliable energy system and lack of transportation infrastructure hinder national development and discourage foreign investment.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, although problems remain including occasional abuse of detainees and prisoners by security forces, restrictions on due process for detainees, and violence against women.

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 killings.

Several dozen prisoners died in custody, at least partially due to inadequate management and oversight y the authorities (see Section 1.c.).

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

Although the Constitution forbids such practices, there were credible reports that police and prison officials sometimes beat or otherwise physically abuse prisoners and detainees. Detention facilities are Spartan, and conditions in them--including insufficient food and heating--continue to a threaten the health of detainees. There is no evidence of a pattern of deliberate abuse, or of a policy of withholding food or other necessities as punishment.

The deaths of several dozen prisoners from unclear health-related causes, however, appears at least partially attributable to negligence and inadequate oversight. With the continuing rise in crime and subsequent rise in the prison and pretrial detainee population, severe crowding in both prisons and detention facilities is common, aggravating management and resource issues.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides that no person shall be searched, arrested, detained, or deprived of liberty except by law, but these protections have not been fully codified. Under the Legal Code, police may arrest those caught committing a crime and hold them for up to 72 hours without a warrant. A warrant must be issued by a prosecutor for incarceration of longer duration or when the actual crime was not witnessed. A detainee has no statutory right under the Code to see an attorney, and defense attorneys are often denied access to their clients before trial.

The Government does not practice forced exile.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary. The courts are independent, and there is no evidence that they discriminate against any group, or that decisions are made for political reasons.

The court system consists of local courts, provincial courts, a Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, and a 12-member General Council of Courts. The 17-member Supreme Court is at the apex of the judicial system, and it hears appeals from lower courts. The local courts hear mostly routine criminal and civil cases; provincial courts hear the more serious cases including those of rape, murder, and grand larceny, and they also serve as the appeals court for lower court decisions. The Constitutional Court considers constitutional questions and cases involving alleged misconduct by high-ranking government officials. The General Council, an independent body, nominates candidates for vacancies on both the Supreme and lower courts; the President has the power to ratify or refuse to approve such nominations.

All accused persons are guaranteed due process, legal defense, and a public trial, although closed proceedings are permitted in cases involving crimes against the State, rape cases involving minors, and particularly brutal murders.

The Constitutional Court has sole jurisdiction in matters involving constitutional issues and over criminal charges leveled against high government officials, e.g. corruption.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The Constitution provides that the State shall not interfere with the private beliefs and actions of citizens, and the Government generally respects this in practice. The head of the MCIA may, with the knowledge and consent of the Prime Minister, direct the monitoring and recording of telephone conversations. The extent of such monitoring is unknown.

During a 5-month long teachers' strike a listening device was found in a police jacket which had been left at the headquarters of the temporary strike committee. Both the police and the MCIA denied knowledge of, and responsibility for, the device's placement, but many of those involved in the job action viewed the incident as a government attempt to harass and intimidate the strikers. In the late autumn, an SGH investigatory committee made the judgment that responsibility for the placement of the device did rest with the police, and it called for the resignation of the head of police.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for the rights of freedom of speech press, and expression. The Government generally respects these rights in practice.

A growing range of newspapers and other publications represent major political party viewpoints as well as independent views. Although in the past the Government controlled access to newsprint, all newspapers now buy newsprint directly from private suppliers, and neither party-affiliated nor independent news media report difficulty securing an adequate supply. Due to transportation difficulties, uneven postal service, and fluctuations in the amount of newsprint available, access to the full range of publications is somewhat restricted in outlying regions.

Draft legislation dealing with press freedom and the rights of assembly, promised as part of the settlement of the 1994 hunger strike, has yet to be considered by the SGH.

There is a government-financed television station with countrywide reception, as well as a new, limited operation private television channel, and several radio stations. The latter are particularly important as the major sources of current news in the countryside. Both official and private media present opposition and government views.

Academic freedom is evident, although there continues to be a severe shortage of teaching materials at all educational levels.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice. The lengthy teachers' strike included many demonstrations and assemblies, and there were no reports that the public assembly permit process was used to limit the right of assembly or association.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for the right both to worship and not to worship and explicitly recognizes the separation of church and state. The Government generally respects these provisions in practice. Although Mongolia has no state religion, the Government has contributed to the restoration of several Buddhist sites important as religious, historical, and cultural centers.

Although under the provisions of a 1993 law on relations between church and state, the Government may supervise and limit the numbers of both places of worship and clergy for organized religions, there are no reports that it has done so. Religious groups must, however, register with the Ministry of Justice. Proselytizing is allowed, although a Ministry of Education directive bans the mixing of foreign language or other training with religious teaching or instruction. Contacts with coreligionists outside the country are allowed.

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

The Constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country as well as the right to travel and return without restriction, and the Government generally respects these rights in practice. A regulation which took effect in December mandates that some categories of foreigners who wish to travel for more than a week must notify police authorities in their projected destination of their plans.

The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees in the small number of cases reported where such status has been claimed. There were no reports of forced expulsion of those having a valid claim to refugee status.

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 through periodic, free elections via secret ballot, with universal suffrage. The current plurality-takes-all election law, plus a multiplicity of candidates in each constituency, led in the 1992 parliamentary elections to a legislature overwhelmingly dominated by the MPRP, which won 71 of 76 seats with less than 60 percent of the popular vote. This imbalance led to calls for election law revision, and in the fall the SGH began consideration of several amendments, including one creating a mixed electoral system with some of the SGH seats to be decided by proportional representations. In January 1996, the ruling MPRP passed, over the objections of other parties, a bill mandating not a mixed electoral system, byt 76 single constituencies to be defined sometime before the June 1996 parliamentary elections. The Presdent protested the bill but decided to let it become law as it was passed by a majority of legislators. There are currently 12 registered political parties.

There are no legal impediments to the participation of women in government and politics, but they are underrepresented proportionate to their share of the population in the highest levels of the Government and in the highest echelons of the judiciary. Although there are significant numbers of women in various midlevel ministry positions, none are to be found in the Cabinet, the Supreme or Constitutional Courts, and only a few of them in the legislature. Underrepresentation of women at the highest levels of government and the professions has several causes, including tradition and some degree of discrimination by the virtually all-male web of leadership.

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

A number of human rights groups operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials are generally cooperative and responsive to their questions. There is an International Committee of the Red Cross representative resident in Mongolia, and the Government has welcomed visits by representatives of other groups interested in human rights.

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

The Constitution states that "...no person shall be discriminated against on the basis of ethnic origin, language, race, age, sex, social origin, or status" and that "...men and women shall be equal in political, economic, social, cultural fields, and family affairs." The Government generally enforces these rights in practice. While there is no evident discrimination in terms of access to education or salary, women are prohibited by law from working in certain occupations requiring either heavy labor or exposure to chemicals which could affect infant and maternal health.

Women

There is growing public discussion of domestic violence, including spousal and child abuse, after many years of government and social denial. Although there are no reliable or exact statistics of the extent of such abuse, human rights groups believe it is a common phenomenon. The large economic and societal changes under way have created new stresses on the family, including loss of jobs, inflation, and lowered spending on social and educational programs. These factors, coupled with the serious problems caused by extremely high rates of alcohol abuse, have led to increased instances of family abuse and abandonment and added to the ranks of single-parent families, most of which are headed by women. Although women's groups are advocating new statutes to cope with domestic violence, at present there is no known police or government intervention in cases involving violence against women beyond prosecution under existing assault laws when formal charges have been filed.

The Constitution provides men and women with equal rights in all spheres and, both by law and practice, women receive equal pay for equal work and have equal access to education. Women represent about half the work force, and a significant number are the primary earners for their families. Although many women occupy midlevel positions in government and the professions, and many are involved in the creation and management of new trading and manufacturing businesses, women are almost completely absent from the highest leadership ranks of both the public and private sectors. There is no government agency overseeing women's rights, nor are there any notable efforts by the Government to encourage greater representation by women in policymaking positions.

A small number of women's rights groups concern themselves with such issues as maternal and children's health and domestic violence.

Children

Increased stress on the family structure and in society has had direct effects on many children, and the Government has been unable to keep pace with all of the educational, health, and social needs of the most rapidly growing share of its population. There are growing numbers of infants and small children orphaned by maternal deaths and desertion and, in Ulaanbaatar and the major urban centers, growing numbers of street children. The Government is committed in principle to children's rights and welfare, but it provides only minimal support for what shelters and orphanages do exist, and those facilities must turn to private sources to sustain their activities. Mongolia has a long tradition of support for, and often communal raising of, children. The Government has been reluctant to admit the extent of the problem and slow to take steps to improve the welfare of children who have become the victims of larger societal and familial changes.

People with Disabilities

There is no discrimination against disabled persons in employment and education, and the Government provides benefits to the disabled according to the nature and severity of the disability. Those who have been injured in industrial accidents have the right to be reemployed when ready to resume work. The Government also provides tax benefits to enterprises which hire the disabled, and some firms do so exclusively. There is no legislation mandating access for the disabled.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution entitles all workers to form or join union and professional organizations of their own choosing. Union officials estimate that union membership now totals over 400,000, somewhat less than half the work force. Union membership rolls are decreasing as the economy shifts from large enterprises and as increasing numbers of workers become either self-employed or work at small, nonunionized firms. Most union members are affiliated with the Mongolian Trade Unions Confederation (MTUC), but some are affiliated with the newer Association of Free Trades Unions (AFTU). Both organizations have ties with international labor organizations and confederations in other countries. No arbitrary restrictions exist on who may be a union official, and such officers are elected by secret ballot.

Union members have the right to strike. Those employed in essential services, which the Government defines as occupations critical for national defense and safety, e.g., police, utility, and transportation workers do not have the right to strike. The teachers' strike, which began in April and which several local courts refused to declare illegal, was the first major strike by civil servants and the only recorded strike of the year.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

In theory, wage levels and other employment issues are decided in tripartite contract negotiations between employer, union, and government representatives. The Government's role is limited to ensuring that the contract meets legal requirements as to hours and conditions of work. In practice, wages and other conditions of employment are set mainly by the employer, whether that employer is a private firm or the Government.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law specifically prohibits forced or compulsory labor. However, most members of the military forces are required to help with the fall harvest.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law prohibits children under the age of 16 from working, although those age 14 and 15 may do so with parental consent. Those under 18 years of age may not work at night, engage in arduous work, or work in dangerous occupations such as mining and construction. Enforcement of these prohibitions, as well as all other labor regulations, is the responsibility of state labor inspectors assigned to regional and local offices. These inspectors have the authority to compel immediate compliance with labor legislation, but enforcement is limited due to the small number of labor inspectors and the growing number of independent enterprises.

A significant number of children leave school early to work, often to help tend family herds.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The monthly minimum legal wage is $17.06 (7,680 tugriks) per month, or 12.2¢ (37 tugriks) per hour, effective in July. This level applies to public and private sector workers alike and is enforced by the Ministry of Population Policy and Labor. This is the lowest wage for manual labor, such as janitorial work; virtually all civil servants make more than this amount, and many in private businesses earn considerably more. The minimum wage alone is insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family.

Labor law sets the standard legal workweek at 46 hours and establishes a minimum rest period of 42 hours between workweeks. For those under 18 years of age, the workweek is 36 hours, and overtime work is not allowed. Overtime work is compensated at either double the standard hourly rate or by giving time off equal to the number of hours worked overtime. Pregnant women and nursing mothers are prohibited by law from working overtime.

Laws on labor, cooperatives, and enterprises set occupational health and safety standards, and the Ministry of Population Policy and Labor provides enforcement. According to labor law, workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations and still retain their jobs. Mongolia's near total reliance on outmoded machinery and problems with maintenance and management lead to frequent industrial accidents, particularly in the mining, power, and construction sectors. Effective enforcement of existing occupational health and safety standards is difficult because the Labor Ministry has less than 40 full-time inspectors to cover all firms, including a growing number of small enterprises. Some of the major industrial sectors, however, have part-time inspectors.

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