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

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 - Micronesia, 30 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1a3c.html [accessed 23 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.
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA

 

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is composed of 607 small islands extending over a large area of the Central Pacific. Four states--Chuuk (formerly Truk), Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap--comprise the federation. The population is estimated at 106,000, mostly of Micronesian origin. The four states were part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands and were administered by the United States from 1947 to 1986 pursuant to an agreement with the United Nations.

Political legitimacy rests on the popular will expressed by a majority vote through elections in accordance with the Constitution. There are three branches of government: a president as chief executive and head of state, a unicameral legislature elected from the four constituent states, and a judicial system that applies criminal and civil laws and procedures closely paralleling those of the United States.

Under the Compact of Free Association, the United States is responsible for defense. The FSM has no security forces of its own, aside from local police and other law enforcement officers, all of whom are firmly under the control of the civil authorities.

The economy depends heavily on transfer payments from the United States, fishing, tourism, and subsistence agriculture.

The Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens. However, traditional customs sustain a value system which distinguishes between people on the basis of social status and sex. The continuing breakdown of those customs, including the breakdown of the extended family, has contributed to a number of human rights problems, including violence against women and child neglect with abusers acting with increasing impunity.

Respect for Human Rights

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

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

There was no known incidence of torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Prison conditions meet minimum international standards. There are no local organizations concerning themselves solely with human rights, and there have been no requests for visits from human rights monitors. Accordingly, the question of visits by human rights monitors remains undefined.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Legal procedures, for the most part patterned after U.S. law, provide for due process, which is carefully observed. There is no governmental use of exile for political purposes.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and it is independent in practice.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Congress.

Public trial is provided for in the Bill of Rights, and trials are conducted fairly. Juveniles may have closed hearings. Despite these provisions, cultural resistance to litigation and incarceration as methods of maintaining public order have allowed some to act with impunity. Serious cases of sexual and other assault and even murder have not gone to trial, and suspects are routinely released indefinitely.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The law prohibits such arbitrary interference, and in practice there is none.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice. Each of the four state governments controls a radio station broadcasting primarily in the local language. Local television programming in some states shows videotaped and occasionally live coverage of local sports and political and cultural events. Subscription cable television, showing major U.S. programming, is available in Chuuk and

Pohnpei. Religious groups operate private radio stations. The national Government and the four states publish newsletters.

Academic freedom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Bill of Rights provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the Government respects these in practice. During political campaigns, citizens often question candidates at public meetings. Formal associations are uncommon in Micronesia, but student organizations exist.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Bill of Rights forbids establishment of a state religion and governmental restrictions on freedom of religion. The Government respects this freedom in practice; it is hospitable to diverse religions, and missionaries of many faiths work within the nation.

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

The Constitution has specific provisions for freedom of movement within the FSM. It is silent on foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but in practice none of these is restricted.

There have been no refugees or asylumseekers in the FSM, and accordingly no policy toward their treatment has been formulated.

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

The Congress is elected by popular vote from each state; the Congress then chooses the President and Vice President from among its four at-large senators by majority vote. State governors, state legislators, and municipal governments are all elected by direct popular vote. Political campaigning is unrestricted, and, as there are no established political parties, political support is generally courted from among family and allied clan groupings.

Although there are no restrictions on the formation of political groups, there have been no significant efforts to form political parties.

For cultural reasons in this male-dominated society, women have not reached senior positions in government. The only female member of any of the four state legislatures was defeated in the November elections in Pohnpei.

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

There were no known requests for investigations of alleged human rights violations. While there are no official restrictions, there are no local groups exclusively concerned with human rights. There are, however, women's groups which concern themselves with rights for women and children.

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

Although the Constitution provides explicit protection against discrimination based on race, sex, language, or religion, there is extensive societal discrimination, notably discrimination and violence against women. Government enforcement of these constitutional protections is weak.

Women

Violence against women usually stems from domestic conflict between husband and wife, and wife beating under certain circumstances is still condoned among more traditional elements of the population. The incidence of alcohol abuse increasingly contributes to this problem. While assault by a husband or other male relative on women and children within the family is a criminal offense under law, most women are reluctant to bring formal charges. When formal charges are brought by women against men who assault them, the attitude of the authorities is that such issues are best left to the extended family unit to resolve. At the same time, the breakdown of the extended family increasingly denies women even the traditional means of redress.

Women's roles within the family as wife, mother, homemaker, and childrearer remain virtually unchanged from earlier times. There are no cultural or institutional barriers to education for women. Statistics supplied by the College of Micronesia-FSM as well as by high schools and grade schools indicate that the percentage of female graduates at all levels now exceeds that of males. The government-funded National Women's Advisory Council as well as some local nongovernmental organizations were active in regional and international preparations for the Fourth World Conference on Women.

In some areas, the Government's expressed commitment to women's rights lacks follow through. For example, the FSM acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993 and subsequently established a national advisory committee on children. That committee has taken no action to draft the first implementing report due last June. Similarly, the Government made no effort to finalize the government-drafted legislation to provide counseling and other services to families and neglected children and to submit it to the FSM Congress. When the Government did ask the Congress to consider the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, there was no serious debate, and the Congress rejected the Convention.

In 1992 women began to have organizational representation at the national level with the formation of the National Women's Advisory Council, made up of the National Women's Interest Officer (NWIO) and representatives from each of the four states. The NWIO position was funded in 1994, but the incumbent took only tentative steps to increase women's awareness of their legal rights.

Children

Programs in health care and education are inadequate to meet the needs of a sharply growing population in an environment in which the extended family is breaking down.

While children's rights are generally respected, child neglect has become increasingly common, a byproduct of the continuing breakdown of the extended family. The Government has not recognized this as a problem or taken steps to address it.

People with Disabilities

Neither laws nor regulations mandate accessibility to public buildings and services for the disabled. FSM schools have established special education classes to address problems encountered by those who exhibit learning disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The FSM prohibits non-Micronesians from purchasing land in the FSM, and the national Congress grants citizenship to non-Micronesians only by individual acts. For the most part, however, non-Micronesians share fully in the social and cultural life of the FSM.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Under the Bill of Rights, citizens have the right to form or join associations, and national government employees by law may form associations to "present their views" to the Government. However, as yet, neither associations nor trade unions have been formed in this largely nonindustrial society.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

There is no law dealing specifically with trade unions or with the right to collective bargaining. Wages are set by individual employers, the largest of which are the national and state governments. The Government is not a member of the International Labor Organization.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution specifically prohibits involuntary servitude, and there is no evidence of its practice.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

There is no law establishing a minimum age for employment of children. While in practice there is no employment of children for wages, they often assist their families in subsistence farming activities. The FSM does have a compulsory education law which requires that all children begin school at the age of 6. Children may leave school when they reach the age of 14 or after completing the eighth grade, whichever comes first.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The four state governments have established minimum hourly wages for government, and in two cases private workers: $1.35 in Kosrae, effective October 1992; $1.35 in Pohnpei, effective October 1991; $0.80 in Yap, effective January 1980; $1.25 in Chuuk, effective October 1994 (paychecks to Chuuk government workers continue to be sporadic as a result of Chuuk's debt crisis). Pohnpei and Yap apply the minimum wage to both government and private workers. These minimum wage structures and the wages customarily paid to unskilled workers are sufficient to provide an acceptable standard of living under local conditions.

There are no laws regulating hours of work (although a 40-hour workweek is standard practice) or prescribing standards of occupational safety and health. A federal regulation requires that employers provide a safe place of employment. The Department of Health has no enforcement capability; working conditions vary in practice.

The FSM does not have any law for either the public or private sector which would permit workers to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to their continued employment.

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