Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September 2014, 09:27 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1996 - Mozambique

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1997
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1996 - Mozambique, 30 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa648.html [accessed 16 September 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.
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1997

 

Mozambique has a constitutional government headed by President Joaquim Chissano who was elected in the country's first multiparty elections in October 1994. President Chissano and the leadership of his party, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), which has ruled the country since independence in 1975, control policymaking and implementation. The National Assembly, the only multiparty institution beside the defense force, provided useful debate on national policy issues. However, the Assembly's FRELIMO majority did not exert significant authority or independence from the executive with regard to policymaking. The judiciary began to openly discuss its weaknesses, but it remained unable to implement constitutional provisions safeguarding individual human rights or to provide an effective check on the power of the executive branch. Although the foundations of democracy remained fragile, Mozambique's political transition continued to be largely successful, and reintegration of areas controlled by the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) during the war continued, with tensions limited to only a few districts.

The integration of the FRELIMO and RENAMO defense forces continued, although a lack of resources and political will has hampered the development of a nonpartisan professional military. There are several forces responsible for internal security under the Minister of Interior, the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), the Mozambican National Police (PRM), and the Rapid Reaction Police (PIR). The State Information and Security Service (SISE) reports directly to the President. These ill-trained and ill-disciplined units continued to be the focus of much controversy. Members of the security forces committed numerous human rights abuses.

Approximately 80 percent of the population is employed in agriculture, mostly on a subsistence level. Major exports are shrimp, sugar, cotton, and cashew nuts. The transition to a market economy in the small formal economy accelerated during the latter half of the year with increasing privatization of state-owned enterprises and progress in financial sector reform. Starting from an extremely low base, the gross domestic product grew 3 percent in 1995 and was forecast to grow at a significantly higher rate in 1996. Inflation fell significantly with an estimated annual inflation rate of approximately 21 percent, below the International Monetary Fund target for the year. Although the general economic outlook improved with good rains and a good harvest, the economy and the Government's budget remained heavily dependent on foreign aid; the economy experienced a $613 million trade deficit in 1995. Extensive corruption at all levels of the Government continues to be a problem. The annual per capita income of around $90 remains very low, and unemployment is high.

While the status of political and civil liberties improved, the Government's overall human rights record continued to be marred by a pattern of abusive behavior by the security forces and an ineffective judicial system which is only nominally independent from the FRELIMO-controlled executive. Poorly trained and undisciplined police forces and local officials continued to commit human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, and arbitrary detention. Security forces and police routinely beat, tortured, or otherwise abused detainees, including street children. Extremely poor prison conditions resulted in the deaths of dozens of inmates. Arbitrary arrests and lengthy detentions without fair and expeditious trials remained problems. The Government continued to restrict press freedom; the media remained largely owned by the Government and state enterprises and manipulated by factions within the ruling party, but there was greater criticism of government policies. Also, with increased press and NGO scrutiny, more abuses by security forces came to light than in previous years, and in some instances the Government investigated and punished those responsible. However, in view of the common perception that the police force is unreliable and corrupt, many citizens resorted to mob justice. Late in the year, the President dismissed the unpopular Minister of Interior, and the Government promised long-needed reforms of the police forces. Societal discrimination and violence against women, and violence against children remain problems.

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 known cases of political killings, but there were reports of extrajudicial killings. RENAMO officials charged that security forces had killed several of its members. In May the General Secretary of RENAMO, Francisco Marcelino, accused police of intimidating, persecuting, detaining, and executing RENAMO followers in Manica, Sofala, Nampula, and Tete provinces. The Government did not investigate these charges, but there were no independent verifications of the alleged killings.

According to the Mozambican League of Human Rights (LDH), in June police were responsible for the death in police custody of an accused car thief, Frenque Tchembene, and the disappearance of another suspect, Abdul Mota (see Section 1.b.). According to Frenque's wife, who was present during his interrogation, Frenque was beaten with iron bars and AK-47 rifles, submerged in dirty water, and struck in the genital area. His medical report indicated that he died later the same week from these police-inflicted injuries. After protest by the LDH, the authorities arrested a sergeant and charged him and four other officers with murder.

A press report stated that police killed three people – two by gunshot and the third by beating – early in the year in Central Zambezia province. The police involved were briefly detained then released. In March the independent press reported that a police officer in Machava, a Maputo suburb, tortured a man to death after a complaint that the man was harassing a neighbor.

Extremely poor prison conditions led to the deaths of many persons in custody (see Section 1.c.).

There were no known disciplinary actions taken in the 1995 killing of Fern Macongue Sitoe. The police shot Sitoe in the course of attempting to settle a local dispute.

Mob and vigilante killings continued to be common. For example in March a group of residents in Manjacaze lynched two suspected armed robbers. While the authorities rarely prosecuted mob participants, in June police in Matola prevented a mob from burning to death four thieves. There were numerous but unverified reports during the year that regulos (traditional chiefs) and curandeiros (traditional healers) had imposed and carried out death sentences against persons accused of witchcraft.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

In May Abdul Mota, a suspected car thief, disappeared after an argument with an officer of the paramilitary "lightning brigade" that patrols the Maputo-Ressano Garcia highway. Mota disappeared after last being seen with a senior officer of the brigade. The authorities failed to conduct a thorough investigation, and no report on the incident had been issued by year's end. Mota remained missing at year's end.

The fate of thousands of Mozambicans who disappeared during the civil war still remains unresolved. However, a FRELIMO National Assembly deputy reported publicly for the first time that the FRELIMO leadership had had one such person – Lazaro Nkavandame, one of FRELIMO's founders – executed by firing squad for treason, as were others during the conflict.

In March another FRELIMO National Assembly deputy alleged that RENAMO continues to hold kidnaped children in Niassa province.

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

The 1990 Constitution expressly prohibits torture and cruel or inhuman treatment, but the Mozambican police forces continued to commit serious abuses. The police often used excessive force, and there were continuing reports that police routinely beat and whipped detainees. In February one senior PRM officer stated publicly that in order to restore public order police have to beat people.

Corruption in the police forces extends throughout the ranks, and the PRM used violence and detention to intimidate people from reporting abuses. In July the Director of the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), Domingos Maita, publicly stated that the police forces are infiltrated by crime syndicates. A press report in September from Gaza province's capital Xai Xai indicated that the local police regularly extorted money from street vendors (predominately widowed and divorced women), beat the women, and confiscated their produce. Police also beat street children (see Section 5).

The vast majority of these cases were never investigated, but one case received nationwide publicity due to the LDH's investigation. The LDH accused the PRM of deliberately torturing nine workers on the Mozambican National Airline (LAM) at the end of 1995. The report stated that the police officers tortured the workers with saws, hammers, and by sticking guns up the workers' nostrils or in their ears, leaving some of the workers with hearing impairments. Although the LDH sent letters to various authorities, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior, by the end of 1996 no investigation into the alleged torture had taken place.

Credible reports indicated that the paramilitary "lightning brigade" guarding the Ressano Garcia-Maputo road continued to beat and torture suspected car thieves, keeping them shackled for days without due process.

A RENAMO provincial official, Tome Fernandes, accused the police in May of intimidating citizens of the RENAMO constituency in Cabo Delgado province. Although RENAMO presented Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi with a series of such allegations, it does not appear that any investigation has taken place. A civil court in March settled the 1994 case of torture of a bank official by "PROTEG" private security forces involving the use of electric shocks. The court ordered the Commercial Bank of Mozambique to reemploy the official and pay him 17 months' back wages. However, the criminal case concerning the torture allegations had not been heard by year's end.

RENAMO officials continued to allege that on numerous occasions police harassed, detained, and beat its members (see Sections 1.a. and 3).

On occasion the Government took action to counter the abuses arising from police corruption and excessive use of force. In June the Maputo provincial police commander, Raimundo Macie, stated that in 1995 the Maputo command disciplined 66 policemen and expelled 19 from the force for collaborating with criminals. In August two police officers were found guilty of sexually violating two minors, 12 and 14 years of age. There were isolated instances of disciplinary actions in other parts of the country. In November President Chissano relieved the unpopular Interior Minister and his deputy, and the new Minister took steps to discipline or expel dozens of police officers as well to begin a program of reform inside the police force.

Prison conditions throughout the country are extremely poor and continued to deteriorate; they posed a severe threat to inmates' life and health. Medical and food supplies are usually insufficient, with little medical care available, and some prisoners being fed only once a day or less. It is estimated that some prisons hold up to four times their intended prisoner capacity. Throughout the year Justice Minister Jose Abudo reported on the serious conditions in the prisons. He made highly publicized visits to prisons, reporting that severe overcrowding, food shortages, and disease, including scabies, malaria, tuberculosis, and anemia, had led to the deaths of prisoners. He also found that management irregularities in many of the country's prisons, including embezzlement of prison funds, had exacerbated prison conditions. In June Abudo stated that the Justice Ministry was unable to fund three meals a day for prisoners and that, in general, prisoners throughout the country received barely one daily meal, often of extremely poor quality.

There were many reports of deaths in overcrowded prisons. For example, in June prison director Pedro Nharrugula said that at least five prisoners had died of diarrheal diseases during the previous 10 months in the main prison in Quelimane, the capital of Central Zambezia province. He said that the Quelimane prison, built to accommodate 90 inmates, currently held 406. Other reports indicated that at least 25 prisoners had died in Manica provincial prison by the end of March. The Manica prison, built to hold 300, contained more than 900 persons. The Beira central prison director, Luis Alberto Sucane, admitted that overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions had caused numerous deaths in the Beira prison, which, despite a capacity of 200, contained 800 prisoners.

Interior Minister Manuel Antonio declared in January that if prisoners die of hunger, they only have themselves to blame. His comments evoked severe national criticism. Calls by a variety of national figures for his resignation went unheeded by the Government. However, in order to combat these poor prison conditions, in February the Ministry of Justice began an initiative whereby prisoners in Sofala, Central Zambezia, and Manica provinces were given their own plots of land to cultivate for food, and in Quelimane prisoners were contracted out as laborers to local businesses.

Although the majority of cases of abuse in prison are due to overcrowding and lack of food and medical attention, prisoners continued to regularly report police beatings, rapes, and demands for money in exchange for freedom. In an April letter by a group of inmates to a national newspaper, the prisoners charged that police officers beat and tortured them, sexually abused prisoners and their wives, and demanded money for food and sometimes freedom. Many pretrial detainees are minors who are incarcerated with adult inmates. As a result, child molestation and other violence against children are rampant in the country's prisons. Military and civilian prisoners are held in the same prisons.

International human rights groups are given access to prisoners.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides that the duration of preventive imprisonment be set by law; however the police continue to arbitrarily arrest and detain citizens. Under Law 2/93, the maximum preventive imprisonment is 48 hours. Within that time period, a detainee has the right to have his case reviewed by judicial authorities, after which he can be detained up to another 60 days while his case is investigated by the PIC. However, persons accused of the most serious crimes, i.e., security offenses or these requiring a sentence of more than 8 years, may be detained up to 84 days without being formally charged. With court approval such detainees may be held for two additional periods of 84 days while the police complete their investigation. In practice, however, the authorities often ignore these rules, as well as a detainee's constitutional right to counsel and to contact relatives or friends. Although Law 19/91 provides definitions of crimes against the State, such as treason, terrorism, and sabotage, the Government retains the discretion to determine which crimes constitute security offenses.

Most citizens are unaware of their rights, particularly those granted under the 1990 Constitution and Law 2/93, and detainees can spend many months, even years, in pretrial status. In August the President of the Supreme Court, Mario Mangaze, publicly admitted that detainees' rights under Law 2/93 regarding preventive imprisonment were being abused due to a severe shortage of qualified judicial authorities to review cases. The bail system remains poorly defined, and prisoners, their families, and NGO's complained that police and prison officials often take bribes to release those who can afford to pay. The law provides that if the prescribed period for investigation has been completed and no charges have been brought, the detainee must be released. In practice, however, this law is often ignored, in part because of the severe lack of administrative personnel, trained judges, and sufficient lawyers to monitor the judicial system (see Section l.e.).

A large backlog of prisoners continue to await trial. Official data for 1995 indicated that there were 2,572 persons in prison and that over half (1,451) were still awaiting trial. In July the Minister of Justice reported that of Pemba prison's 321 inmates, 61 awaited trial and 170 had not even been charged. In Beira central prison 322 of the 743 inmates reportedly had already been in pretrial detention for periods longer than the potential jail terms applicable for their alleged crimes, and 278 of the 639 prisoners in Manica central prison were in similar status. In Guelimane provincial prison 245 of the 406 prisoners were awaiting judicial hearing, many for over 6 months.

The Constitution expressly prohibits exile, and the Government does not use exile as a form of political control.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution formally established an independent judiciary and specifically states that the decisions of the courts take precedence over all other authorities and individuals and must be obeyed. Nevertheless, the executive, and by extension the FRELIMO party, dominates the judiciary. Judges largely owe their positions to the ruling FRELIMO party, which continues to exercise significant influence on all aspects of public life through the executive and party organs.

The President appoints the President and Vice President of the most important tribunal, the Supreme Court. These selections are then sent to the National Assembly for approval. Although the Supreme Council of Judicial Magistrates assembles a list of qualified persons for the remaining Supreme Court positions, the President selects the justices off the list. No National Assembly approval is needed for these choices. In May the FRELIMO-dominated National Assembly succeeded in electing its list of four candidates to the Supreme Council. The President also appoints the Attorney General. The National Assembly has yet to assert it prerogatives in the judicial area.

There are two complementary formal justice systems: The civil/criminal which includes customary courts; and the military. A 1991 law empowered the Supreme Court to administer the civil/criminal; it also hears appeals, including military cases, although the Ministry of Defense administers the military courts. Below the Supreme Court there are provincial and district courts. There are also special courts that exercise limited subject-matter jurisdiction, e.g., administrative courts, customs courts, fiscal courts, maritime courts, and labor courts. As with the provincial and district courts, these specialized courts are ineffective because they suffer from a lack of qualified professionals. Civilians are not under the jurisdiction of, or tried in, the military courts. Local customary courts handle matters such as estate and divorce cases.

Persons accused of crimes against the State are tried in regular civilian courts under standard criminal judicial procedures. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over members of the National Assembly and anyone else who is immune from trial in the lower courts. A judge may order a trial closed because of national security interests or to protect the privacy of the plaintiff in cases concerning rape.

In regular courts, all accused persons are in theory presumed innocent and have the right to legal counsel and the right of appeal, but the authorities do not always respect these rights, and in fact the great majority of the population is either unaware of these rights or does not possess the means to obtain any form of legal counsel. There is a serious shortage of qualified judicial personnel. In April Supreme Court President Mangaze reported that at the provincial level, only one licensed judge exists in Cabo Delgado, Gaza, and Zambezia provinces, respectively. He reported that at the district level there are districts with no courts or judges at all. In August Supreme Court President Mangaze further admitted that the grave problems of a lack of human and financial resources and problems with outdated legislation have impeded the judiciary's effectiveness. Exacerbating the problem is the lack of licensed attorneys, with less than 200 in the country and the vast majority centered in Maputo. In an effort to replace the public organization previously responsible for providing counsel for indigent defendants, some NGO's, such as the Mozambican League of Human Rights and the Association of Mozambican Women in Judicial Careers, offer limited legal counsel at no or little cost.

The President of the Supreme Court has also acknowledged that the judicial system in plagued by bribery and extortion. In June a judge in Gaza province was accused of confiscating private goods, including cars of local citizens.

In November the presiding judge of the Manica provincial court was accused of murdering his domestic servant. The victim's widow filed a case against the judge with the provincial attorney who forwarded it to the relevant authorities in Maputo. As a result of these charges, the Deputy President of the Supreme Court traveled to the provincial capital of Chiomoio to conduct an investigation. By year's end, there had not been any disciplinary action taken.

The Government, with international assistance, has developed a comprehensive plan for improving the professional level and efficiency of the judiciary. In an effort to combat the lack of human resources, in mid-September a Center for Judicial Formation (with European funding) opened, which will train nonlicensed persons for the role of district magistrates.

Efforts to reintegrate RENAMO-controlled zones into central administrative structures continued, but RENAMO still exercises informal control over a number of areas through a rudimentary form of civil administration and traditional courts, with extensive use of traditional authorities as judges. In September the RENAMO National Assembly deputy for Inhambane, Fernando Pries, acknowledged the existence of a RENAMO administrative structure in the district of Chipandzane. A traditional chief in the district of Rovuro was accused of trying to collect taxes, and another in Inharrime district forced residents to build huts and latrines.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The 1990 Constitution provides for the right of privacy and expressly forbids the use of surveillance techniques. By law police need a warrant to enter homes and businesses. Although there are fewer reports of such activity, incidents of illegal telephone wiretapping by government intelligence agencies allegedly still occur. Security forces keep watch on RENAMO members and supporters and other members of the opposition.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution, the 1991 Press Law, and the 1992 Rome Peace Accords provide for freedom of expression and the press but with restrictions in cases involving national defense considerations. Although there was some progress toward greater transparency and criticism in reporting on government policies and more independent editorial content, the Government continued to restrict press freedom. While criticism of the President is not legally prohibited, the 1991 Press Law holds that, in cases of defamation against the President, truth is not a sufficient defense against libel. Although this law has not been tested in court, it resulted in considerable self-censorship, and there is almost no direct criticism of the President.

The Government dominates the media, which reflect a bias toward state interests. The Government and state enterprises own the greater part of the country's media, including Mozambique's two daily newspapers, the only Sunday newspaper, the only weekly news magazine, and the national radio and television stations. Radio Mozambique is the public's most important source of information and receives the largest single subsidy from the state budget of any public company. The Government also has its own wire service, the Mozambican News Agency.

The government-controlled media continued to orchestrate disinformation campaigns regarding RENAMO activities. For example, the government-controlled press repeatedly claimed that members of an obscure Zimbabwean dissident group, allegedly operating along the two country's borders, had ties to RENAMO and that RENAMO was keeping armed men in hiding. No credible evidence was ever produced for these allegations, and the claims died out in the latter half of the year. More generally, the press tended deliberately to portray RENAMO in a bad light although this too was less evident as the year wore on.

The development of the small independent media continued over the past year. In addition to the two weekly newspapers, Demos and Salvana, and two facsimile daily news sheets, Medifax, and Imparcial, two monthly newspapers appeared; Renascer oriented to general news, and Gaseta Mercantil covering economic issues. There were attempts at other news sheets, and independent newspapers with mimeographed formats appeared in two provinces. The second television station and a few limited range radio stations also continued to operate.

The small independent press carried opposition viewpoints and generally enjoyed far greater credibility, but its influence (and that of the official press as well) is limited largely to Maputo and the provincial capitals because of the logistical difficulty of distribution of any publication in rural areas. Only a small minority of the population receives news through either television or the print media.

Journalists who criticized government officials or policy were at times subjected to threats and intimidation. For example, in April, in violation of the 1991 Press Law, police in Nacala detained, harassed, and destroyed the film of two journalists of the independent newspaper Savanna who had photographed local traffic police.

Government domination of newspaper printing presses led to allegations of official harassment of the independent press, but there was no evidence this affected publication or content of the independent publications.

Abolition of the Ministry of Information in late 1994 did not notably result in greater independence of the media, and a new information office under the Prime Minister continues to at least informally monitor press content. A Mozambican chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, whose goal is the creation and development of a free and pluralistic press in southern Africa, was founded in July.

There are no formal restrictions on academic freedom. In practice, however, teachers routinely adhere to self-censorship since their employment depends on the State. During a June strike of students (demanding an increase in living allowances) at the University of Eduardo Mondlane, the university rector made credible allegations of political interference in the functions of the university.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association. Throughout the year political parties and other groups freely held congresses, press conferences, workshops, and other public gatherings. No groups were known to have been denied permission to hold public marches. For example, RENAMO's Maputo city branch organized celebrations of the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Rome Peace Accords in October and held other meetings throughout the country. NGO's and church organizations were also active in hosting conferences and rallies, and faced no governmental obstacles or harassment. The Mozambican Christian Council continued its project of collecting arms throughout the country without interference.

Legislation promulgated in 1991 ensures the process of registration of political parties. Currently there are over 15 registered, active political parties. Under 1992 legislation a political party must demonstrate that it has no racial, ethnic, or religious exclusiveness and secure at least 2,000 signatures of citizens in order to be recognized legally.

Other groups and associations continued to organize themselves or become more active, including Foro Mulher, an umbrella women's NGO group, which hosted a conference on women's rights (see Section 5). The Government requires nonpolitical groups, except religious organizations, to register, but it rarely rejects applications from new associations.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides that all citizens have the freedom to practice or not to practice a religion and gives religious denominations the right to pursue their religious aims freely. The Government respects these rights in practice. The Government does not require religious organizations or missionaries to register, and foreign missionaries are routinely granted visas. The Constitution also gives religious groups the right to own and acquire assets, and these institutions are allowed by law to operate schools. Small Christian evangelical groups continued to form throughout the year, and an Islamic group provided funds for the construction of schools in Niassa, Nampula, and Maputo provinces.

Relations between the Government and the religious organizations, tense in the early years after independence, began to improve in 1992 and have improved further as the Government sought political support from these organizations in the multiparty system. Muslim deputies introduced an Islamic holiday proposal in the National Assembly's fourth session (February-May), but President Chissano requested that the Supreme Court make a ruling on its constitutionality. A variety of national figures, including the Catholic Church's Archbishop of Beira, charged that the proposal conflicts with the Constitution, which declares that Mozambique is a secular state. The Supreme Court in December ruled that the Islamic Holidays Law was unconstitutional since it conflicted with constitutional provisions guaranteeing the secular nature of the Mozambican State.

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

The Constitution provides for freedom of travel within the country and abroad. The Government no longer requires citizens to obtain permits from local authorities in order to travel within the country. The Government continues to enforce a law fining foreigners who overstay their visas; increasing the amount to $350 per day.

Throughout the year, security force roadblocks and patrols affected freedom of movement. Police harassment throughout the country's road network increased over the past year, with many incidents of officers demanding bribes on trumped-up charges. Confiscating people's possessions under flimsy pretexts has become a common police practice.

Although several riots throughout the country by unemployed demobilized soldiers occurred in midyear, the disturbances were small in scale and largely confined to urban areas. In the countryside, where most of the demobilized soldiers reside, former soldiers appeared to be reintegrating peacefully with no threats to freedom of movement.

In July the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officially ended its repatriation and reintegration program for Mozambican refugees. In the 30-month period following the signing of the October 1992 Rome Peace Accord, approximately 1.7 million Mozambican refugees returned to the country from six countries of asylum. During the same time period, most of the country's 3.6 million internally displaced persons moved back to their homes.

In recent years, Mozambique has been primarily a refugee generating country. Historically, however, Mozambique has provided asylum to large numbers of refugees from neighboring countries. The Government cooperates with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees, including providing first asylum. At year's end, there was a small caseload of 48 refugees who have been granted asylum in Mozambique, primarily from other African countries (Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, and Somalia). Of these 48 persons, 28 individuals were granted asylum in 1996. The UNHCR also manages a moderate caseload of individuals who have been refused refugee status but are in the process of appealing this decision and of those who are still in the application process. There were no reports of 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

The Constitution provides that citizens have the right to elect their representatives by universal, direct, secret, and periodic elections. In October 1994 citizens freely exercised for the first time their right to vote in multiparty elections, which U.N. and other international observers declared to be free and fair. President Chissano was elected, with the ruling FRELIMO party winning 129 of the 250 National Assembly seats. RENAMO surprised many observers with its strong showing in the elections, winning majorities in the country's five most populous provinces. Although the opposition parties are in a minority status in the Assembly and lacked previous legislative experience, the two 1996 parliamentary sessions were marked by an improvement in both the overall quality of debate as well as the effectiveness of individual deputies from all parties.

Although debate and the airing of issues of national concern increased in the National Assembly during the year, the Assembly with its FRELIMO majority did not provide any significant check on the power of the executive branch. The executive continued to gain parliamentary approval on even the most controversial issues, such as the composition of the newly created National Defense Council.

The President and the FRELIMO leadership continued to control policymaking and implementation, and all cabinet positions and provincial governorships went to FRELIMO party members, even in provinces where RENAMO had won overwhelming majorities in the 1994 elections. The Government's strategy appeared increasingly to be to use its patronage and power to build support in areas that supported RENAMO during the 1994 elections. RENAMO parliamentarians complained of a lack of support from provincial and district officials during visits to their constituencies. Working relationships between the parties at the national and local level appeared to improve, however, as the year wore on.

Although FRELIMO administrators in some areas continued to accuse RENAMO officials of running parallel governmental structures and harassing central government appointed officials, by year's end these allegations diminished as the Government began to operate more freely in RENAMO-dominated areas.

Momentum behind local elections grew throughout the latter part of 1996 culminating in the National Assembly's approval of the Municipalities Law in December. Local elections were expected to take place in late 1997 in several dozen localities covering a significant proportion of the population. RENAMO officials, who had previously resisted the concept of gradualism in local elections, by year's end had accepted this phased approach to the polls.

While there are no legal restrictions hindering women's involvement in government, cultural factors have inhibited their political advancement. Nonetheless, 62 of the 250 (28 percent) National Assembly deputies are women, even though these female deputies are not believed to play a significant role in either the Parliament's or the individual parties' decisionmaking processes. One women serves as a minister and five as vice ministers.

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

There are no legal obstacles to the formation of local human rights groups. The Mozambican League of Human Rights has focused efforts on educating the public regarding its rights. It uncovered many of the grave abuses within the prison system. The Government has permitted the League access to Maputo and Nampula prisons under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. The League has also publicly criticized widespread abusive behavior by the police and the Minister of Interior himself. In May a new group, the Mozambican Human Rights Association, was formed with a primary mission of human rights education. In late December, a third group, Human Rights and Discovery, was formed with stated aims of promoting, protecting, and developing human rights.

The Government has been receptive to visits by international human rights monitoring groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Commission of Jurists.

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

The Constitution forbids discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or disability, but the Government does not ensure in practice that such discrimination does not occur.

Women

Although official statistics are not kept, according to health officials, women's groups, and other sources violence against women – particularly wife beating and rape – is widespread, especially in rural areas. Many women believe that their spouses have the right to beat them, and cultural pressures make it highly unlikely for most women to press for legal action against abusive spouses. While rape can theoretically be prosecuted in the courts, no civil laws exist whereby domestic violence is specifically considered a crime. The police do not normally intervene in domestic disputes, and cases are rarely brought before the courts. When victims of physical abuse are brought to the hospital, such cases are rarely registered as caused by domestic violence.

Nevertheless, an increasing number of women's groups have been calling for a revision in the Penal Code to include provisions for prosecuting such violence, documenting cases of domestic violence, and encouraging victims of domestic and sexual violence to press charges. In July the President described domestic violence against women as a violation of human rights and an obstacle to social harmony. The President stated that the Government is committed to fighting against domestic violence and called for the establishment of hostels for the victims of domestic violence. A group of NGO's active in the women's rights area established the Kulaya Center for Victims of Domestic Violence in midyear. The Center, which operates out of the Maputo central hospital, currently has approximately 15 beds and relies on foreign funding.

Despite constitutional protections providing for the equality of men and women under law in all aspects of political, economic, social, and cultural life, civil and commercial legal codes that predate independence frequently contradict each other and the Constitution. Under the Law of the Family (through both court interpretation and precedent), the husband (or father) is the head of the household, and women (both wives and daughters), must ensure male approval of any and all undertakings that women assume. For example, in order to start a business, a woman must first have the written approval of her husband or father (or closest male relative). Without this approval, a woman is unable to lease a building, obtain a loan, or contract for goods and services. The legal domicile of a married woman is her husband's house, and she may only work outside the home with the express consent of her husband.

Family law also dictates that a couple's possessions belong to the husband, and he has full authority to decide on the disposition of these goods. Upon the death of a husband, a widow is only fourth in line (after sons, fathers, and brothers) for inheritance of the household goods. Although the law states that the widow is entitled to half of the goods acquired during the marriage, in practice women rarely know of or insist upon this right.

Several women's groups have argued that the Constitution discriminates against women because it only grants Mozambican citizenship to the foreign wife of a Mozambican male, but not to the foreign-born spouse of a Mozambican woman.

Customary law or traditional law offers women even fewer protections than family law. Unless a marriage is registered, a woman has no recourse to the judicial branch for enforcement of the few rights provided to women by the civil codes. Although women are the primary cultivator of family land in rural areas, under customary law they have no rights to the disposition of the land. Generally, land tenure is passed on through male relatives, not female ones.

Women also experience economic discrimination in practice and sexual harassment in the workplace. The Organization of Mozambican Workers (OTM) reported in March that women are the principal victims of retrenchments due to economic restructuring and are often fired under the pretext of low productivity. Women are rarely given the same opportunities for technical training as men. According to the Secretary General of the National Union of Agricultural and Forestry Workers, female workers were fired from their jobs for not allowing sexual advances. In April another trade union, the National Union of Road Transport and Technical Assistance Workers, alleged that women experience sexual assault, are overworked, and work in conditions lacking basic sanitation and bodily protection. In March the Chemical Workers' Union accused company managers of sexually harassing female workers. In May the Mozambican Association of Demobilized Soldiers noted that demobilized female soldiers from both government and RENAMO forces were still facing discrimination in the reintegration process. The demobilized female soldiers claimed, for example, that the majority of microenterprise projects benefited demobilized males.

Women have less access than men to educational institutions above the primary level. Although roughly equal proportions of male and female children enter primary school, by secondary school males greatly outnumber females. Discrimination against women is most apparent in rural areas where over 80 percent of the population live, and where women are engaged mainly in subsistence farming and child rearing, with little opportunity for schooling or access to health care.

Foro Mulher, an umbrella for women's NGO groups, has approximately 21 registered members. These women's NGO's have become increasingly active over the last year in their efforts to highlight a variety of women's issues, including domestic violence, legal inequities, and economic empowerment. Funded through a host of different means, some of these NGO's provide basic legal advice for women, others conduct training seminars, and still others lobby for changes in governmental legislation. Although these groups have organized successful programs, their effectiveness is often limited because the programs are concentrated in Maputo or other urban areas while the vast majority of women live in the rural zones.

Children

The Government has not made children's rights and welfare a priority but is making some efforts to deal with a corrupt and overcrowded educational system. It is widely reported that school children (or their parents) must bribe teachers for passing grades. Reportedly about 60 percent of the country's children now attend school.

The Government has also made little attempt to alleviate the plight of the increasing numbers of urban street children, many of whom were orphaned by the war. In March Minister of Health, Dr. Aurelio Zilhao reported that 300,000 children, traumatized by the war, orphaned, and abandoned, require social reintegration. Street children are beaten by police and are often victims of sexual abuse. In January a press article reported that police in Maputo imprisoned a 15-year-old child for 9 days with no recourse to justice for allegedly stealing a tape cassette. The same minor was then allegedly given 12 lashes by the police before being released. In February a parliamentary deputy discovered five street children detained in a Montepuez, Cabo Delgado prison.

People with Disabilities

Although the Constitution expressly states that "disabled citizens shall enjoy fully the rights enshrined in the Constitution," the Government provided few resources to make this a reality. It has relied on NGO's to assist the disabled. Founded in 1991, the Association of Mozambican Disabled (ADEMO) addresses the social and economic needs of the disabled. Since then, smaller NGO's have formed, such as the Association of Handicapped Military and Paramilitary Mozambicans (ADEMINO), which represents disabled demobilized soldiers, and the Association of Blind and Visually Impaired Mozambicans. Although poorly funded, these groups provide training, raise public awareness of the need to integrate the disabled into society, and lobby the Ministry of Labor to initiate legislation to support the working rights of the disabled. In May ADEMIMO charged that the Government had not yet authorized medical pensions for disabled soldiers. Also in May the press reported that more than 9,000 disabled former military personnel in Sofala province were living in dire conditions due to the Ministry of Planning and Finance's refusal to institute disability pensions.

The only provisions that the Government has enacted for accessibility to buildings and transportation for the disabled were in the electoral law governing the country's first multiparty elections, which addressed the needs of disabled voters in the polling booths. No special access facilities exist.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There was no systematic persecution or discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity, although the FRELIMO Government has traditionally included at all levels a disproportionate number of southerners, mostly from the Shangaan ethnic group. However, the Government took some steps to address this imbalance by appointing provincial governors native to their respective provinces. The Government also included more nonsoutherners in the FRELIMO parliamentary delegation.

RENAMO leadership is predominately from the Shona ethnic group. There is no indication that the conflict between the Government and RENAMO was primarily motivated by ethnicity, although ethnic and regional factors may have played some role and explain some of the civil war violence.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution specifies that all workers are free to join or refrain from joining a trade union. The 1991 Labor Law further protects workers' right to organize and to engage in union activity at their place of employment. The legislation gave existing unions the right to register independently from the Organization of Mozambican Workers (OTM).

Until 1992 the only trade union federation in Mozambique was the OTM, which was affiliated with the FRELIMO party, and from its inception FRELIMO dominated the union. Its leadership was dictated by FRELIMO. With the passage of the 1991 legislation, three unions broke away from OTM in 1992, and by 1994 had formed their own central union, the Free and Independent Union of Mozambique (SLIM). SLIM maintains a working relationship with the OTM. The OTM claims almost 67 percent worker affiliation within its constituent unions, and SLIM claims 60 percent worker affiliation.

At its third National Congress in May 1994, the OTM declared itself free of commitments to any political party, company, or religious group, and ruled that its members affiliated with any political party would not be eligible to hold elected offices. However, independent unions continue to charge that the OTM lacks sufficient independence from the Government.

The Constitution explicitly provides for the right to strike, with the exception of government employees, police, military personnel, and employees engaged in other essential services (which include sanitation, firefighting, air traffic control, health care, water, electricity, fuel, post office, and telecommunications). Throughout the year there were sporadic strikes at a variety of companies throughout the country, where workers' demands usually centered around the issues of salaries in arrears or increases in wage levels. In August workers of a fishing company in Nampula province went on strike, demanding an increase in their minimum wage of $19 per month (the national minimum wage is $22.50 per month).

The 1991 Labor Law forbids retribution against strikers, the hiring of substitute workers, and lockouts by employers. There were no known instances of employer retribution against striking workers. Specific labor disputes are generally arbitrated through ad hoc workers' commissions, formally recognized by the Government. In May an ad hoc workers' commission at one company met with the employer to discuss striking workers' allegations that officials of the company verbally and physically abused workers.

The Constitution and labor legislation give unions the right to join and participate in international bodies. The OTM is a member of the Organization of African Trade Union Unity and the Southern African Trade Union Coordinating Council.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Labor Law protects the right of workers to organize and to engage in collective bargaining. The Government has become less involved in the bargaining process despite the large number of state-owned enterprises. In late 1991 the Government decreed that it would no longer set all salary levels and left negotiations for wage increases in the hands of existing unions. The Social Pact Committee, which involves the Government, the OTM, the SLIM, the teachers' and journalists' unions, and employers' associations is important in resolving labor-management issues. This Committee negotiated a revision of the minimum wage in May. In April the Minister of Labor agreed to submit any proposed change to the Labor Law to the committee for review.

The Labor Law expressly prohibits discrimination against organized labor, although antiunion discrimination has not been as issue because, until recently, unions were government-controlled organizations.

While Mozambique has enacted legislation for the establishment of export processing zones, no zones have been created.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law, and there have been no reports of such labor practices.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Child labor is regulated by the Ministry of Labor. In the wage economy, the minimum working age is 16 years. Because of high adult unemployment, estimated at around 50 percent, few children are employed in regular wage positions. However, children of younger ages commonly work on family farms or in the urban informal sector, where they perform such tasks as guarding cars, collecting scrap metal, or selling trinkets and food in the streets.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government sets minimum wage rates administratively. The minimum wage rate enacted in May was approximately $22.50 (271,126 meticais) per month. It is estimated that a salary of about $62.00 (700,000 meticais) per month is needed in order to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. As the minimum wage is not considered sufficient to sustain an average urban worker and family, many workers must turn to a second job, if available, as well as work garden plots to survive.

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing the minimum rates in the private sector, and the Ministry of Finance is responsible in the public sector. Violations of minimum wage rates are usually investigated only after workers register a complaint. It is customary for workers to receive additional benefits such as transportation and food.

The standard legal workweek is 44 hours, with a weekly 24-hour rest period stipulated. In the small modern sector, the Government has enacted health and environmental laws to protect workers. However, the Ministry of Labor enforces these laws ineffectively, and the Government has only occasionally closed firms for noncompliance. A report issued in July indicated that violations of health and safety norms and regulations in 1995 caused 524 accidents in the building, timber, and mining sectors alone. Workers have the right to remove themselves from work situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardy to their continued employment.

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