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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2001 - Micronesia, Federated States of

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 4 March 2002
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2001 - Micronesia, Federated States of , 4 March 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3c84d9934.html [accessed 17 September 2014]
Comments The report entitled "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with sections 116(d) and 502(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, and section 504 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended. The law provides that the Secretary of State shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, by February 25 "a full and complete report regarding the status of internationally recognized human rights, within the meaning of subsection (A) in countries that receive assistance under this part, and (B) in all other foreign countries which are members of the United Nations and which are not otherwise the subject of a human rights report under this Act." We have also included reports on several countries that do not fall into the categories established by these statutes and that thus are not covered by the congressional requirement.
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.

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is composed of four states: Chuuk (formerly Truk); Kosrae; Pohnpei; and Yap. 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: An executive branch led by a president who also serves as head of state; a unicameral legislature elected from the four constituent states; and an independent judicial system that applies criminal and civil laws and procedures that closely parallel those of the United States. Traditional leaders retain considerable influence.

Under the Compact of Free Association, the United States is responsible for the islands' defense. The country has no security forces apart from national police, who operate under effective civilian control, and public safety officers, who also operate under effective civilian control.

The population is approximately 107,000, mostly of Micronesian origin. 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, and the law and judiciary provide effective means of dealing with individual instances of abuse. Traditional customs distinguish among persons on the basis of social status and sex. Neither the Government nor other organizations successfully have filled the role of the traditional extended family in protecting and supporting its citizens. There was growing evidence of increased spousal abuse and child neglect, and government agencies often did not address such problems due to the constraints imposed by traditional society.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports of the arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life committed by the Government or its agents. There was a suspicious death of a prisoner in custody in 2000, and a prisoner suicide in 1999 (see Section 1.c.). Both cases remain open but are not known to be under active investigation.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

In August 2000, two off-duty policemen reportedly beat a foreign national at a bar in Pohnpei. Both officers were dismissed from the police force; however, they were not prosecuted.

Prison conditions generally meet international standards. In January the family of a prisoner who died in custody in 1996 won a civil case against the Chuuk state police for violation of civil rights and wrongful death. The family was awarded $42,000. There was a suspicious death of a prisoner in 2000, and the 1999 suicide of a prisoner remains unexplained (see Section 1.a.). Both cases remain open but are not known to be under active investigation.

The question of prison visits by human rights monitors did not arise during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observes these prohibitions.

The Government does not use forced exile.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respects this provision in practice.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the legislature. Each state also has a supreme court, and each municipality has a community court.

The Constitution provides for public trial, and trials generally are conducted fairly. Juveniles may have closed hearings. Despite these provisions, cultural resistance to litigation and incarceration as methods of maintaining public order has allowed some persons to act with impunity. Serious cases of sexual and other assault and even murder have not gone to trial, and suspects routinely are released indefinitely. Bail, even for major crimes, usually is set at low levels.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and the Government generally respects these prohibitions in practice.

2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

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

The national Government and the four states publish newsletters. A new biweekly newspaper, the Kaselehlie Press Pohnpei State (originally known as the Rohng En Pohnpei) published its first issue in November 2000. Each of the four state governments controls a radio station that broadcasts primarily in the local language. One religious group operates a private radio station. The populations of Pohnpei, Chuuk, and Kosrae have increasing access to live satellite-televised information from around the world and tape-delayed broadcasts of programming by the major U.S. networks. Yap State does not have a television receiver station, and few residents have individual satellite dishes.

There is an increasing level of open public discussion of social and governmental issues on various Internet sites. The Internet plays an important role in allowing citizens in the four states, as well as those residing outside the country, an opportunity to share views and opinions.

Academic freedom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the Government generally respects these rights in practice.

During political campaigns, citizens often question candidates at public meetings and social gatherings.

Formal associations are uncommon, but organizations for students and women exist.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. Missionaries of many faiths work in the country without hindrance.

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

The Constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country. It is silent on foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but in practice none of these are restricted.

The Government has not formulated a policy regarding refugees, asylees, or first asylum. To date there has never been a request for asylum in the country.

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

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.

The Congress is elected by popular vote from each state; the Congress then chooses the President and Vice President by majority vote from among its four at large senators. State governors, state legislators, and municipal governments are elected by direct popular vote. Political campaigning is unrestricted. There are no restrictions on the formation of political groups, but there have been no significant efforts to form political parties, and none exist. Political support generally is sought from family and allied clan groupings, as well as religious groups.

Cultural factors in the male-dominated society have limited women's representation in government and politics. Although women hold midlevel positions at both the federal and state level, the percentage of women in government and politics does not correspond to their percentage of the population. The first woman to hold a national government cabinet position was appointed in 1999; she continues to serve as Public Defender. In November 2000, a woman also was elected to serve in the Pohnpei State Legislature.

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 during the year; international human rights groups never have raised issues with the country. While there are no official restrictions, no local groups concern themselves exclusively with human rights. However, there are groups that address problems concerning the rights of women and children, and the Government cooperates with these groups.

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 provisions is weak.

Women

Reports of spousal abuse, often of increasing severity, continued to rise. There are no laws against domestic abuse, and there are no governmental or private facilities to shelter and support women in abusive situations. Effective prosecution of such offenses is rare. In many cases, the victim decides against initiating legal charges because she is pressured by family, is fearful of further assault, or is convinced that the police will not involve themselves actively in what is seen as a private family problem. The number of cases of physical and sexual assaults against women outside the family context also is growing. Such assaults are perpetrated against both citizens and foreigners. Unmarried women sometimes are considered to have invited such violence by living or traveling alone.

In the traditional Micronesian extended family unit, spouses and children were accorded strong protections from violence, abuse, and neglect. Such actions were deemed offenses against the family, not just the individuals within them, and were addressed by a complex system of familial sanctions. However, with increasing urbanization and monetarization of the economy, greater emphasis has been placed on the nuclear family, and the traditional methods of coping with family discord are breaking down. No government agency, including the police, has succeeded in replacing the extended family system or in addressing the problem of family violence directly.

Prostitution is not legal; however, it is not a major problem. The law does not prohibit sex tourism specifically; however, it is not a problem. The law does not prohibit sexual harassment; however, it does not appear to be a problem.

Women have equal rights under the law, and there are no institutional barriers to education and employment. Women receive equal pay for equal work and are well represented in the lower and middle ranks of government. However, there is extensive societal discrimination against women. Women are active and increasingly successful in private business and enterprises. There is an active National Women's Advisory Council that lobbies the Government, and several small nongovernmental groups are interested in women's issues, particularly those associated with spousal and family violence and abuse.

Children

The Government is committed to children's welfare through its programs of health care and education; however, these programs have been inadequate to meet the needs of the country's rapidly growing population, particularly in an environment in which the extended family is breaking down. Health officials and religious leaders started peer support and family care groups to address the factors that may be leading to an increase in youth suicides; although there were a small number of suicides during the year, there were no comprehensive statistics.

A compulsory education law requires that all children begin school at the age of 6. Education is free, and there is no difference between the education of boys and girls. Education levels differ among the states, but on average 75 percent of children finish 8th grade, 55 percent finish 9th grade, and approximately 35 percent finish high school. Children may leave school when they reach the age of 14 or after completing the 8th grade, whichever comes first.

The Government provides vitamins to children and administers an immunization program throughout the country.

Persons With Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination in public service employment against persons with disabilities. Children with physical or mental disabilities are provided with special education, including instruction at home if necessary. There were no reports of discrimination against persons with disabilities; however, they usually do not seek employment outside the home. There were no reports of discrimination against persons with mental disabilities.

Neither laws nor regulations mandate accessibility to public buildings and services for persons with disabilities. The school system has established special education classes to address problems encountered by those who exhibit learning disabilities, although such classes are completely dependent on nongovernment funding. Some private businesses provide special parking spaces and wheelchair ramps for the disabled.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The law prohibits noncitizens from purchasing land, and the national Congress grants citizenship to non-Micronesians only in rare cases (an authority that last was exercised during 1998, for the first time in almost 20 years). However, for the most part, noncitizens share fully in the social and cultural life of the country.

6. Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Under the law, 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 without coercion, discrimination, or reprisals; however, they have not formed any such associations, and there is no specific right to strike. For a variety of reasons, including the fact that most private sector employment is in small-scale, family-owned business and that Micronesians are not accustomed to collective action, there are neither associations nor trade unions. There have been no reports of strikes, labor disputes, or collective bargaining agreements in the country's history, and there were no such incidents during the year. The country is not a member of the International Labor Organization.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

No law deals specifically with trade unions or with the right to collective bargaining. Individual employers, the largest of which are the national and state governments, set wages.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution specifically prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and there were no reports that such practices occurred.

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

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

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 Government has not ratified ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labor.

Neither the Constitution nor the law specifically prohibits forced and bonded labor by children, but such practices are not known to occur (see Section 6.c.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The four state governments have established minimum wage rates for government workers. Pohnpei has a minimum hourly wage rate of $2.00 for government and $1.35 for private workers. The other three states have established minimum hourly rates only for government workers: $1.25 for Chuuk; $1.49 for Kosrae; and $0.80 for Yap. The minimum hourly wage for employment with the national Government is $1.68. The U.S. dollar is the country's legal currency. These minimum wage structures and the wages customarily paid to skilled workers are sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The minimum wage is enforced through the tax system, and this mechanism is believed to be effective.

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 workplace. The Department of Health has no enforcement capability; working conditions vary in practice.

There is no law for either the public or private sector that would permit workers to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to their continued employment.

Two states permit foreign laborers to work in garment manufacturing enterprises. The foreign laborers are paid at a lower rate than citizens who work at the factories, work longer hours per day, and work a 6-day week in contrast to the 5-day week for citizens. However, working and living conditions are regarded generally as good, and workers are not subjected to abuse or deported without cause; they have the right to a hearing under such circumstances. Foreign workers have the right to form unions; however, they have not done so.

f. Trafficking in Persons

The law does not specifically address the subject of trafficking in persons; however, there were no reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country.

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