Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
MARSHALL ISLANDSThe Republic of the Marshall Islands, a self-governing nation under the Compact of Free Association with the United States, is composed of 34 atolls in the central Pacific, with a total land area of about 70 square miles. The approximately 56,000 inhabitants are of Micronesian origin and concentrated primarily on Majuro and Kwajalein atolls. The Constitution provides for free and fair elections, executive and legislative branches, and an independent judiciary. The legislature consists of the Nitijela, a 33-member Parliament, and a Council of Chiefs (Iroij), which serves a largely consultative function dealing with custom and traditional practice. The President is elected by majority Nitijela vote and he appoints his Cabinet from its membership. The Government attempts to influence judicial matters. Under the Compact of Free Association, the United States is responsible for defense and national security, and the Marshall Islands has no external security force of its own. The national and local police forces have responsibility for internal security. These agencies honor constitutional and legal civil rights protections in executing their responsibilities. The economy depends mainly on transfer payments from the United States. Coconut oil and copra exports, a small amount of tourism, import and income taxes, and fishing licensing fees generate limited revenues. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the law and judiciary provide effective means of dealing with individual instances of abuse. However, government influence leads to occasional media self-censorship, and also affects judicial matters. There were instances of denial of due process for detainees. Violence against women and child abuse are problems.