Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
BAHAMASThe Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a constitutional, parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Queen Elizabeth II, the nominal head of state, is represented by an appointed Governor General. Prime Minister Hubert A. Ingraham's Free National Movement (FNM) has controlled the Government and Parliament since August 1992. The judiciary is independent. The police and the small Bahamas Defence Force answer to civilian authority and generally respect laws protecting human rights. However, there continue to be reports that police occasionally abuse detainees. The economy depends primarily on tourism, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the gross domestic product. Financial services, particularly offshore banking and trust management, are also a major source of revenue. While some citizens enjoy relatively high income levels, there is considerable underemployment and poverty. The official unemployment rate is over 11 percent, but unofficial estimates range up to twice that figure. Citizens enjoy a wide range of democratic freedoms and human rights. The principal human rights problems include reports of occasional police abuse of detainees, continuing harsh conditions at the only prison, lengthy pretrial detention and delays in trials, violence and discrimination against women, and violence against children.