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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Mauritania

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Mauritania, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4234.html [accessed 1 August 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.
 

 

Mauritania is an Islamic republic. The 1991 Constitution provides for a civilian government composed of a dominant executive branch, a Senate and National Assembly, and a judiciary. President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya has governed since 1984, first as head of a military junta, and since the 1992 election as head of civilian government. Election observers concluded that President Taya's 62-percent majority in a four-way election was fraudulent. Most opposition parties boycotted the subsequent parliamentary elections. The President and the Government have strong military support.

The Government maintains order with regular armed forces, the National Guard, the Gendarmerie (a specialized corps of paramilitary police), and the police. The Ministry of Defense directs the armed forces and Gendamerie; the Ministry of Interior directs the National Guard and police. There have been reported instances of these forces engaging in human rights abuses. Mauritania, with a population of 2.2 million, has a market-oriented economy based on subsistence farming, herding and a small commercial sector. Drought, desertification, insect infestation, rapid urbanization, extensive unemployment, and a burdensome foreign debt handicap the economy. Inadequate recent rainfall has contributed to urbanization, further straining government finances.

The major human rights problem continues to be the Government's failure to resolve the outstanding abuses of the 1989-91 period in which approximately 70,000 Mauritanians were expelled or fled and some 500 members of the military were killed--almost entirely African Mauritanians. Hundreds more were tortured and maimed. In 1993, the Parliament passed an amnesty bill to preclude legal pursuit of those responsible. The Government has, however, paid pensions and compensation to some survivors and to some families of those killed. Democratic institutions are still rudimentary, and ethnic tensions remain high, with many non-Hassaniya-speaking citizens continuing to feel excluded from effective political representation.

Although the Government has instituted some judicial reform, in practice, the right to a fair trial continues to be restricted. Police often used brutal methods, and the Government continued to restrict political activity, seize publications, and discriminate on the basis of language. Prison conditions are harsh and unhealthy. Societal discrimination and female genital mutilation remain a serious concern.

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 confirmed reports of political killings, but two persons are known to have died while in police custody. In April police reportedly apprehended Ibrahima Diallo, a Senegalese taxi driver in Nouakchott, on suspicion of robbery. He later died in custody; police claimed he died of a heart attack. In September a young African-Mauritanian was arrested in the town of Nouadhibou for petty theft and died while in police custody. Credible observers believe that police mistreatment was the cause of both deaths. Authorities have investigated neither of these incidents. There were a number of unexplained and uninvestigated deaths in the border regions with Senegal and Mali.

Authorities brought a police officer to trial for the 1991 torture and death of a criminal suspect. The court found the police officer not guilty, but ordered the Ministry of Interior to pay a "deya" or blood money to the victim's family.

Extrajudicial killings from past years, primarily of African-Mauritanians, remained unresolved. The principal example of such killing involves the death while in military custody of approximately 500 largely Halpulaar and Soninke military and civilian personnel; the military has never released the results of an internal military investigation into this matter and has not brought charges against those responsible.

In June 1993, the Government passed a law granting amnesty to members of the armed forces and police as well as to private citizens involved in killings and other abuses during 1990 and 1991. Lawyers representing victims' families concluded that the law rendered the case legally closed. The Government provided pensions to some victims, as well as pensions and compensation to approximately 277 widows and families who could document their relationship to those who were killed. The Government has refused the claims of approximately another 123 women who could not prove their relationship to those who were killed. Government failure to investigate and bring to justice officials who commit killings or other abuses has created a climate of impunity.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

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

The law prohibits the use of torture and other forms of cruel or inhuman punishment, but the police continue on occasion to beat criminal suspects while in custody. Authorities rarely tried or punished persons suspected of committing such abuses. There are credible reports that several of the 60 Islamic persons detained in September and October were tortured. There has been no public investigation of the detainees' claims.

Security forces, assigned to forestall cross-border raids in the Guidimaka area near the Malian and Senegalese borders, have reportedly resorted to brutality when questioning people.

Prison conditions do not meet minimum humanitarian standards. There is severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and inadequate food and medical treatment. There were no reports of suspicious deaths among the prison population. The only reports of such deaths were among the detainees in pretrial status cited (see Section 1.a.). The prison in Nouakchott, which was built in 1960 for a projected prison population of 200 men, now houses 700. Observers report better conditions at the women's prison and children's detention center in Nouakchott. At the Government's request, a French nongovernmental organization (NGO), Pharmaciens sans Frontieres (Pharmacists Without Borders) is coordinating international assistance for a large-scale project to improve overall prison conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides for due process and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by an established tribunal. It stipulates that authorities cannot arrest, detain, prosecute, or punish anyone except as provided for under the law. Actual application of these safeguards continued to vary widely from case to case.

The law requires that courts review the legality of a person's detention within 48 hours of arrest. The police may extend the period for another 48 hours, and a prosecutor may detain persons for up to 30 days in national security cases. Only after the prosecutor submits charges can a suspect contact an attorney. There were credible reports that police detained persons incommunicado for extended periods without charge. Pretrial detention is extensive, and approximately 50 percent of the prison population has not yet been tried. Some indicted prisoners continue to be released before trial without explanation. Familial, tribal, or political connections may explain some of these releases. There is a provision for granting bail, but it is rarely used.

In January police arrested the President of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association, Cheik Saad Bouh Kamara, searched his home, and seized his papers without an arrest or search warrant. He was detained just under the 48 hours permissible, then released without charge. Police questioned him extensively concerning his human rights activities and his contacts with an international human rights mission that had visited Mauritania just prior to his arrest (see Section 4).

In September and October, the Government detained for 2 weeks and questioned 60 people in connection with an alleged Islamist plot. Although the Government said it had evidence against the detainees, some of whom confessed to subversive activities, the Government released them without charge. Observers reported that in most cases police failed to obtain warrants. Occasional reports of arbitrary arrests and intimidation committed by security forces continued, particularly in communities along the Senegal River.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The executive branch controls and influences the judiciary, which is only nominally independent. The Ministry of Justice appoints judges and subjects the courts to pressure in reaching verdicts. This influence was evident, for example, in the court's ruling in favor of the governing party when the opposition parties challenged some results of the January-February municipal elections.

In addition to government influence over verdicts, the judicial system's fairness is limited by poorly educated and poorly trained judges who are susceptible to tribal and social pressures.

Moreover, Shari'a (Islamic law), tribal regulations and personal connections continue to dominate some judicial decisions.

The formal judicial system includes a system of lower, middle, and upper level courts, each with specific jurisdiction. Bridging the traditional and modern systems of justice are 43 department-level tribunals staffed by Qadis, traditional Islamic magistrates trained primarily in Koranic law. Mauritanians seeking legal redress in civil matters must address themselves to one of these tribunals, which operate on the basis of both Shari'a and legal codes. Three regional courts of appeal handle challenges to decisions at the department and regional levels. Nominally independent, the Supreme Court is headed by a magistrate named to a 5-year term by the President. The Supreme Court reviews decisions and rulings made by the courts of appeal to determine their compliance with the law. Constitutional review is the purview of a 6-member Constitutional Council, composed of three members named by the President, two by the National Assembly President, and one by the Senate President.

In theory, all defendants, regardless of the court or their ability to pay, have the legal right to representation by counsel during the proceedings which are open to the public. The law provides that defendants may confront witnesses, present evidence, and appeal their sentences, but in practice these rights are not regularly applied. Courts do not treat women as equals of men with respect to legal testimony: the testimony of two women is considered equal to that of one man. In addition, in awarding an indemnity to the family of a woman who has been killed, the courts grant only half the amount they would award for a man's death. In addition, there are no female magistrates.

There were no reported political prisoners or detainees at year's end. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has concluded that there are no longer any political prisoners and discontinued monitoring.

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

The law requires judicial warrants in order to execute home searches, but the authorities often ignore this requirement. During the roundup of some 60 Islamists in September and October, as well during the detention of human rights monitor Cheik Saad Bouh Kamara, police searched detainees' homes and seized papers without a search warrant.

There were fewer reports of government surveillance of suspected dissidents than in previous years, although the extent to which the Government used informants is unknown.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, but the Government continues to restrict these rights through prepublication press censorship. Opposition political leaders campaigned openly during the municipal and Senate elections in early 1994, and the government-controlled media provided access, albeit limited, to opposition candidates. NGO's and the privately owned press are openly critical of the Government and its leaders. Antigovernment tracts, newsletters, and petitions circulate widely in Nouakchott and other towns.

The electronic media (radio and television) and the country's two daily newspapers, Horizon and Chaab, are government owned and operated. Radio is the most important medium in reaching the public, and the official media strongly support government policies. All newspapers and political parties must register with the Ministry of the Interior. The Government has not refused to register any journal but has on occasion temporarily suspended publication of some. At times there have been as many as 60 independent, privately owned journals, although only around 20 have appeared regularly. For the most part, these weeklies, published in Arabic or French, reached only a limited audience. The Ministry of the Interior reviews all newspaper copy prior to publication. The Press Law provides that the Minister of the Interior can stop publication of material discrediting Islam or threatening national security. Although the Ministry did not excise material from journals or otherwise censor individual articles, authorities seized upwards of 20 individual issues of many different journals. One journal, Le Calame, was suspended for a month. In some cases, the Government explained its action, saying certain papers seized contained false allegations concerning neighboring countries which could impinge on national security. In other instances, the Government provided no specific reason for the seizures.

In September, in protest against the seizures, the seven affiliated papers of the National Association of the Independent Press (ANPI) suspended publication and demanded changes in the Press Law to strengthen press independence. These journals resumed publication in mid-October, while continuing to press the Government with their demands for a new press code.

The country's one university is government funded and government operated. Academic freedom is generally respected, and there were no cases in which the Government prevented professors from pursuing their research interests, from publication, or censored their lectures.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, and for the most part the Government respects this right, although there have been occasions when it restricted public gatherings. The law requires that all political parties and NGO's must register with the Minister of the Interior and obtain permission for large meetings or assemblies. The Minister of the Interior, citing the need to ensure public order, denied a permit to the main opposition party, the Union of Democratic Forces-New Era (UFD-EN), to hold a march and rally to protest fraud committed during the January-February municipal elections.

Over 16 political parties and a wide array of NGO's, many of them highly critical of the Government, met openly, issued public statements, and chose their own leadership. The Government recognized a number of newly formed NGOs, among them a new labor confederation, the General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers (CGTM), and the Professional Union of the Independent Press in Mauritania (UPPIM). The Government has not yet granted some NGO's official sanction but allowed them to operate. It has not yet recognized the Mauritanian Association for Human Rights, claiming that it appeals to specific ethnic groups (i.e., the African-Mauritanian community), and is a potentially divisive force. However, the Government allows the association to function.

c. Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion does not exist. Mauritania is an Islamic republic, and the law provides that all citizens are Sunni Muslim and prohibited from converting to another religion. The Government prohibits proselytizing by non-Muslims, and Mauritanians are not allowed to enter non-Islamic houses of worship or to possess sacred texts of other religions.

The Government allows the small Lebanese Shi'a community to practice its religion privately and permits the expatriate Christian community to hold services that are restricted to non-Mauritanians.

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

Historically there were few restrictions on travel in Mauritania's traditional nomadic society. With urbanization and travel by automobile, the Government set up regular checkpoints on roads at which travelers are stopped and papers checked by the Gendarmerie. Following cross-border raids from Senegal, the Government imposed occasional temporary curfews. There were no reported cases of persons being denied passports for political reasons.

Of the approximately 70,000 African-Mauritanians who were expelled by Mauritania or fled during the 1989-90 crisis, an estimated 55,000 remained in refugee settlements in Senegal. While many of the 15,000 Mauritanian Peuhl who took refuge in Mali during the same crisis have integrated into the population, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) discontinued at the end of the year the limited assistance they had been providing to them.

The impasse for the 60,000 refugees still in Senegal remained centered on their demands that the Government recognize their Mauritanian citizenship before they return, repatriate them as a group under international auspices, return their land, and pay compensation for their losses. The Government states that it places no restrictions on the return of those expelled, and continues to encourage a gradual, case-by-case repatriation; some refugees have returned in this manner. However, the Government has so far failed to set up clear administrative procedures for expellees wishing to obtain confirmation of their citizenship and associated rights.

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

The Constitution provides citizens with this right, but the Government circumscribes it in practice. The 1992 multiparty election of a civilian President ended 14 years of military rule, but both the opposition and international observers concluded that the elections were fraudulent. Moreover, the military continued to provide strong support to the regime, and some previous Military Council members, in addition to President Taya, remained in positions of power within the Government and armed forces.

Because the major opposition parties, including the Union of Democratic Forces-New Era (UDF-EN), boycotted the 1992 National Assembly elections, the President's party, the Republican, Democratic and Social Party (PRDS), dominates the General Assembly, holding 66 seats of 79. The PRDS and opposition political parties, as well as independent candidates, participated in the 1994 Senatorial elections, and PRDS candidates won all but 1 of the 18 seats at stake. Both the opposition and the government parties committed fraud during the 1994 elections. Municipal councils elected the Senators by indirect vote.

Women have the right to vote, but few are active in political parties. There were seven women in senior government positions, including one Cabinet-level post. There is one elected woman senator and one mayor.

Black Mauritanians are underrepresented in senior government positions. Of 20 Cabinet ministers, 3 are Black Maurs, 3 are Pulaars, and 1 is Soninke. The other ministers are White Maurs.

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

There are two human rights organizations in Mauritania, one of which is the Mauritanian League for Human Rights, an officially recognized body. The League has occasionally played a mediating role between the Government and representatives of the refugees in Senegal and victims of the 1990-91 military purge. A second and as yet unrecognized organization, the Mauritanian Human Rights Association (AMDH), while not affiliated with the opposition, has many opposition members. It has been more critical of the Government than the League, particularly on the unresolved abuses of the 1989-91 period. The AMDH called on the Government to be more forthcoming in addressing the vestiges of slavery (see Section 6.c.).

In January the London-based International League for Human Rights and the French human rights group, Agir Ensemble, jointly visited Mauritania. Government officials met with representatives of the League, but refused to meet with the representatives of Agir Ensemble, which had previously issued a report highly critical of the Government's human rights record. Shortly after the group's departure, police apprehended the President of the AMDH and questioned about his international contacts, particularly those with Agir Ensemble (see Section 1.d.).

Although the Government facilitated regular visits by the International Labor Organization and the ICRC, it remained selective in its approach to NGO's and international organizations. The Government asked Pharmaciens sans Frontieres to coordinate international assistance to improve prison conditions (see Section 1.c.). As in previous years, the Government and the U.S.-based Africa Watch, which has published articles strongly critical of the Government's human rights record, could not agree on the terms for a visit to Mauritania. Africa Watch sought written government guarantees concerning freedom of movemen, and unimpeded access to Mauritanians; the Government would only give oral assurances.

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

The Constitution provides for equality before the law for all citizens, regardless of race, national origin, sex, or social status, and prohibits racially or ethnically based propaganda. In practice, the Government often accords these rights on the basis of ethnic and tribal affiliation, social status, and political ties.

Women

Women have legal rights to property and child custody and, among the more modern and urbanized population, these rights are recognized. In theory, marriage and divorce do not require the woman's consent. Polygyny exists and, as sanctioned by the teachings of Islam, a woman does not have the right to refuse her husband's wish to marry additional wives. In practice, polygyny and arranged marriages are increasingly rare, particularly among the Maur population. Women also frequently initiate a divorce.

Traditional forms of mistreatment of women continue, mostly in isolated rural communities, but these practices appear to be on the decline. Such mistreatment includes forced feeding of adolescent girls (Gavage) and female genital mutilation (see below).

Resort to abuses such as wife beating appears limited. The police and judiciary occasionally intervene in domestic disputes, but women in traditional society usually do not seek legal redress, preferring to turn to family and ethnic group members to resolve domestic disputes.

There are no restrictions on the education of women. Few women attend university and while the overall literacy rate is approximately 34 percent, for women it is 21 percent. The Government has a policy of opening new employment opportunities for women in areas traditionally reserved for men, such as health care, communications, police, and customs services. Women are well represented in government-owned radio and television, and many news broadcasters are women. The law provides that men and women receive equal pay for equal work. While not universally applied in practice, the two largest employers, the civil service and the state mining company, respect this law. In the modern wage sector, women also receive generous family benefits, including 3 months of maternity leave.

Children

The law does not provide any special protection for children's rights. There are programs to care for abandoned children, but resources are inadequate. The Government does not enforce existing child labor laws; children often perform significant labor in support of their families' activities. Female genital mutilation (FGM), most often performed on young girls, continues to be practiced widely among all ethnic groups except the Wolof. For the most part, the least severe form of excision is practiced, although some groups practice infibulation, the most severe form of FGM. Evidence indicates that the incidence is diminishing in the modern urban sector. The Government, however, does not attempt to interfere with these practices although government health workers try to educate women to the dangers of the practice and of the fact that it is not a requirement of Islam.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic and cultural tension and alleged discrimination arise from the geographic and cultural line between traditionally nomadic Arabic-speaking (Hassaniya) Maurs of the North and black African herders and sedentary cultivators along the Senegal River in the South. Though culturally homogeneous, the Maurs are divided among numerous tribal groups and are racially distinguished as White Maurs (Beydane) and Black Maurs. The majority of the Black Maurs are Haratine, literally "one who has been freed," although some Black Maur families were never enslaved. The southern African-Mauritanians are the Halpulaar (the largest group), the Wolof, and the Soninke. White Maurs dominate positions in government, business, and the clergy. African-Mauritanians are underrepresented in the military and security sectors. They, like human rights groups, contend that this is based on ethnic and linguistic discrimination.

Ethnic tensions surfaced dramatically in the mass expulsions of African-Mauritanians in 1989-90 and the settlement in the Senegal River area by both White and Black Maurs.

Black Africans charge that the Government is misusing the 1983 land reform law to allow Maurs to encroach on fertile land in the Senegal River valley which traditionally has been the preserve of black Africans. The Government claims the land was underutilized and used by traditional landowners to maintain a feudal system of serfdom.

Language has been a divisive issue since Mauritania's independence and the establishment of Arabic as the national language in 1973. Successive government regimes--both civil and military--which pursued a policy of "Arabization" in the schools and in the workplace have exacerbated interethnic tensions, putting non-Arabic-speaking African-Mauritanians at a disadvantage.

The Government has attempted to institute a flexible educational program permitting primary education in multiple languages: Arabic, French, or one of the three African languages. One result, however, is that in seeking admission to the university, students not having elected Arabic are at a disadvantage. The linguistic debate and ethnic tension extend even to the language used in law school diplomas.

Overt tensions between ethnic groups have lessened since the explosive ethnic violence of 1989 to 1991, when the Government's extrajudicial expulsions and reprisals by the security forces were clearly based on ethnicity. Nevertheless, hostility and bitterness persist among the Black Maur and African majority. However, there is little cultural identity or political cohesion within them.

People with Disabilities

The Government does not mandate preference in employment or education or public accessibility for disabled persons, but provides some rehabilitation and other assistance for the disabled.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of association and the right of citizens to join any political or labor organization. All workers except members of the military and police are free to associate in and establish unions at the local and national levels.

Prior to the 1993 amendment to the Labor Code, which repealed provisions restricting trade union pluralism, the government-controlled labor central, the Union of Mauritanian Workers (UTM), was the only labor confederation allowed by law. It remains the major worker confederation and many workers still view it as closely allied with the Government and the PRDS. The Government recognized a new confederation, the General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers (CGTM), which is not affiliated with any political party, although most of its members favor the opposition. It has organized some new locals, working among the heretofore unorganized self-employed workers, and has attracted a number of member unions from the UTM. The CGTM has protested what it characterized as preferential treatment for the UTM by the Government.

International trade union activity is minimal, but unions are free to affiliate with international bodies. The UTM participated in regional labor organizations, and the CGTM was accepted as a member of the Ghana-based United Organization of African Workers.

The bulk of the labor force is in the informal sector, with most workers engaged in subsistence agriculture and animal husbandry; only 25 percent are employed in the wage sector. However, nearly 90 percent of industrial and commercial workers are unionized.

The law provides workers with the right to strike, and there were several strikes and partial work stoppages. Most were settled quickly due to limited worker and union resources and government pressure. Moreover, the law stipulates that tripartite arbitration committees composed of union, business, and government representatives may impose binding arbitration that automatically terminates any strike.

The Government did not petition the United States for reconsideration of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade privileges. The United States had revoked its GSP benefits in July 1993 for failure to respect freedom of association or to take steps to eliminate forced labor, including vestiges of slavery.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides that unions may freely organize workers without government or employer interference. Wages and other benefits are generally decided informally among individual unions, employers, and the Government. However, the Government plays a dominant role in the wage negotiations and in practice limits collective bargaining.

Laws provide workers protection against antiunion discrimination and employees or employers may bring labor disputes to three-person labor courts that are overseen jointly by the Ministries of Justice and Labor. The CGTM successfully represented workers before the courts in two cases in which employers had refused to recognize their employees' decisions to change their affiliation from the UTM to the CGTM.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Mauritania has officially abolished slavery several times, most recently in 1980. Nevertheless, the legacy of slavery remains, particularly in its economic and psychological manifestations. Tens of thousands of persons whose ancestors were slaves still occupy positions of servitude and near-servitude, although such practices as coercive slavery and commerce in slaves appear to have virtually disappeared. In most cases, those remaining in a situation of unpaid servitude do so due to a lack of economic alternatives. Some freed slaves (Haratine) have either stayed with, or returned to, their former masters and continue to provide labor in exchange for room, board, and other basic necessities. Others live independently but continue in a symbiotic relationship with their former masters, performing occasional unpaid labor for food, clothing, and medical care. It is difficult to quantify the number of persons who continue to live under conditions of involuntary servitude. Estimates from various sources range from a low of a few thousand to as many as 90,000. However, no definitive figures exist.

The El Hor (literally "the free man") Movement continued to pursue its agenda to eradicate the vestiges of slavery and its associated mentality among former slaves and slaveholders. Observers report the existence of slavery among Malian refugees--both Tuareg and Maur--who arrived in the camps in eastern Mauritania. Informed estimates are that 10 percent of the 80,000 refugees in the camps are slaves. Efforts by U.N. workers in the camps to distribute food and other services to these families separately from their masters have met with strong resistance by the slaves themselves, who may fear retribution from their masters.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Education is not compulsory, and due to a lack of resources some 30 percent or more of school-age children do not regularly attend government schools. Labor law specifies that no child under the age of 13 may be employed in the agricultural sector without the permission of the Minister of Labor, nor under the age of 15 in the nonagricultural sector. The law provides that employed children aged 14 to 16 should receive 70 percent of the minimum wage, and those from 17 to 18 should receive 90 percent of the minimum wage. The Labor Ministry's few inspectors provide only limited enforcement of child labor laws; many people consider child labor laws irrelevant (see Section 5).

Young children in the countryside commonly pursue herding, cultivation, fishing, and other significant labor in support of their families' activities. In keeping with longstanding tradition, many children serve apprenticeships in small industries and in the informal sector.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage for adults is approximately $67 per month (ougiya 8,300) and has not been raised since October 1992. It is difficult for the average family to meet its minimum needs and maintain a decent standard of living at this salary level. The standard, legal, nonagricultural work week may not exceed either 40 hours or 6 days without overtime compensation, which is paid at rates that are graduated according to the number of supplemental hours worked. The Labor Directorate of the Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcement of the labor laws, but in practice inadequate funding limits the effectiveness of the Directorate's enforcement.

The Ministry of Labor is also responsible for enforcing safety standards but does so inconsistently.

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