[JPRT, 106th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]



106th Congress 
 2d Session              JOINT COMMITTEE PRINT
_______________________________________________________________________

 
     COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 1999--VOLUME II

                               __________

                              R E P O R T

                            submitted to the

                       COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL

                               RELATIONS

                     U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                                and the

                     COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

                              U.S. SENATE

                                 by the

                          DEPARTMENT OF STATE

     IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTIONS 116(d) AND 502B(b) OF THE FOREIGN 
                   ASSISTANCE ACT OF 1961, AS AMENDED

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED]CONGRESS.#13


                               APRIL 2000

Printed for the use of the Committees on International Relations of the 
U.S. House of Representatives and Foreign Relations of the U.S. Senate 
                              respectively



                  COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

                 BENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York, Chairman
WILLIAM GOODLING, Pennsylvania       SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut
JAMES A LEACH, Iowa                  TOM LANTOS, California
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois              HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
DOUG BEREUTER, Nebraska              GARY L. ACKERMAN, New York
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey     ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American 
DAN BURTON, Indiana                      Samoa
ELTON GALLEGLY, California           MATTHEW G. MARTINEZ, California
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida         DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
CASS BALLENGER, North Carolina       ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
DANA ROHRABACHER, California         SHERROD BROWN, Ohio
DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois         CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California          ALCEE L. HASTINGS, Florida
PETER T. KING, New York              PAT DANNER, Missouri
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio                   EARL F. HILLIARD, Alabama
MARSHALL ``MARK'' SANFORD, South     BRAD SHERMAN, California
    Carolina                         ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
MATT SALMON, Arizona                 STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, New Jersey
AMO HOUGHTON, New York               JIM DAVIS, Florida
TOM CAMPBELL, California             EARL POMEROY, North Dakota
JOHN M. McHUGH, New York             WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
KEVIN BRADY, Texas                   GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
RICHARD BURR, North Carolina         BARBARA LEE, California
PAUL E. GILLMOR, Ohio                JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California     JOSEPH M. HOEFFEL, Pennsylvania
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
THOMAS G. TANCREDO, Colorado
                    Richard J. Garon, Chief of Staff
          Kathleen Bertelsen Moazed, Democratic Chief of Staff
                                 ------                                

                     COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

                 JESSE HELMS, North Carolina, Chairman
RICHARD G. LUGAR, Indiana            JOSEPH R. BIDEN, Jr., Delaware
CHUCK HAGEL, Nebraska                PAUL S. SARBANES, Maryland
GORDON H. SMITH, Oregon              CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, Connecticut
ROD GRAMS, Minnesota                 JOHN F. KERRY, Massachusetts
SAM BROWNBACK, Kansas                RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD, Wisconsin
CRAIG THOMAS, Wyoming                PAUL D. WELLSTONE, Minnesota
JOHN ASHCROFT, Missouri              BARBARA BOXER, California
BILL FRIST, Tennessee                ROBERT G. TORRICELLI, New Jersey
LINCOLN D. CHAFEE, Rhode Island
                   Stephen E. Biegun, Staff Director
                 Edwin K. Hall, Minority Staff Director



                            C O N T E N T S

                              ----------                              

                                VOLUME I

                                                                   Page
Foreword.........................................................   VII
Letter of Transmittal............................................    IX
Preface..........................................................    XI
Introduction.....................................................    XV
Africa:
    Angola.......................................................     1
    Benin........................................................    14
    Botswana.....................................................    20
    Burkina Faso.................................................    29
    Burundi......................................................    39
    Cameroon.....................................................    47
    Cape Verde...................................................    69
    Central African Republic.....................................    74
    Chad.........................................................    85
    Comoros......................................................    94
    Congo, Democratic Republic of................................    99
    Congo, Republic of...........................................   128
    Cote d'Ivoire................................................   138
    Djibouti.....................................................   155
    Equatorial Guinea............................................   166
    Eritrea......................................................   173
    Ethiopia.....................................................   182
    Gabon........................................................   203
    Gambia, The..................................................   211
    Ghana........................................................   220
    Guinea.......................................................   237
    Guinea-Bissau................................................   249
    Kenya........................................................   256
    Lesotho......................................................   279
    Liberia......................................................   288
    Madagascar...................................................   299
    Malawi.......................................................   305
    Mali.........................................................   313
    Mauritania...................................................   321
    Mauritius....................................................   337
    Mozambique...................................................   343
    Namibia......................................................   357
    Niger........................................................   369
    Nigeria......................................................   379
    Rwanda.......................................................   402
    Sao Tome and Principe........................................   412
    Senegal......................................................   415
    Seychelles...................................................   427
    Sierra Leone.................................................   433
    Somalia......................................................   442
    South Africa.................................................   449
    Sudan........................................................   464
    Swaziland....................................................   482
    Tanzania.....................................................   490
    Togo.........................................................   505
    Uganda.......................................................   518
    Zambia.......................................................   535
    Zimbabwe.....................................................   547

Latin America, Canada, and the Caribbean:
    Antigua and Barbuda..........................................   569
    Argentina....................................................   573
    Bahamas......................................................   584
    Barbados.....................................................   590
    Belize.......................................................   594
    Bolivia......................................................   601
    Brazil.......................................................   611
    Canada.......................................................   634
    Chile........................................................   641
    Colombia.....................................................   656
    Costa Rica...................................................   691
    Cuba.........................................................   698
    Dominica.....................................................   718
    Dominican Republic...........................................   722
    Ecuador......................................................   737
    El Salvador..................................................   747
    Grenada......................................................   763
    Guatemala....................................................   767
    Guyana.......................................................   792
    Haiti........................................................   801
    Honduras.....................................................   815
    Jamaica......................................................   829
    Mexico.......................................................   834
    Nicaragua....................................................   857
    Panama.......................................................   872
    Paraguay.....................................................   885
    Peru.........................................................   896
    St. Kitts and Nevis..........................................   924
    Saint Lucia..................................................   928
    St. Vincent and the Grenadines...............................   932
    Suriname.....................................................   936
    Trinidad and Tobago..........................................   943
    Uruguay......................................................   948
    Venezuela....................................................   954

East Asia and the Pacific:
    Australia....................................................   971
    Brunei.......................................................   978
    Burma........................................................   984
    Cambodia.....................................................  1006
    China (includes Hong Kong and Macau).....................1018, 1089
    China (Taiwan only)..........................................  1095
    Fiji.........................................................  1106
    Indonesia....................................................  1113
    Japan........................................................  1153
    Kiribati.....................................................  1166
    Korea, Democratic People's Republic of.......................  1179
    Korea, Republic of...........................................  1169
    Laos.........................................................  1189
    Malaysia.....................................................  1199
    Marshall Islands.............................................  1227
    Micronesia, Federated States of..............................  1230
    Mongolia.....................................................  1234
    Nauru........................................................  1239
    New Zealand..................................................  1242
    Palau........................................................  1247
    Papua New Guinea.............................................  1251
    Philippines..................................................  1256
    Samoa........................................................  1268
    Singapore....................................................  1272
    Solomon Islands..............................................  1288
    Thailand..................................................... 12928
    Tonga........................................................  1306
    Tuvalu.......................................................  1309
    Vanuatu......................................................  1312
    Vietnam......................................................  1316

                               VOLUME II

Europe:
    Albania......................................................  1337
    Andorra......................................................  1348
    Armenia......................................................  1351
    Austria......................................................  1366
    Azerbaijan...................................................  1375
    Belarus......................................................  1390
    Belgium......................................................  1414
    Bosnia and Herzegovina.......................................  1422
    Bulgaria.....................................................  1440
    Croatia......................................................  1458
    Cyprus.......................................................  1479
    Czech Republic...............................................  1488
    Denmark......................................................  1503
    Estonia......................................................  1507
    Finland......................................................  1515
    France.......................................................  1519
    Georgia......................................................  1531
    Germany......................................................  1546
    Greece.......................................................  1559
    Hungary......................................................  1574
    Iceland......................................................  1585
    Ireland......................................................  1590
    Italy........................................................  1598
    Kazakhstan...................................................  1606
    Kyrgyz Republic..............................................  1628
    Latvia.......................................................  1640
    Liechtenstein................................................  1649
    Lithuania....................................................  1652
    Luxembourg...................................................  1661
    Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia........................  1664
    Malta........................................................  1675
    Moldova......................................................  1678
    Monaco.......................................................  1688
    Netherlands, The.............................................  1691
    Norway.......................................................  1698
    Poland.......................................................  1702
    Portugal.....................................................  1719
    Romania......................................................  1725
    Russia.......................................................  1735
    San Marino...................................................  1797
    Serbia-Montenegro............................................  1799
    Slovak Republic..............................................  1844
    Slovenia.....................................................  1857
    Spain........................................................  1861
    Sweden.......................................................  1875
    Switzerland..................................................  1882
    Tajikistan...................................................  1890
    Turkey.......................................................  1902
    Turkmenistan.................................................  1937
    Ukraine......................................................  1947
    United Kingdom...............................................  1970
    Uzbekistan...................................................  1988

Near East and North Africa:
    Algeria......................................................  2009
    Bahrain......................................................  2020
    Egypt........................................................  2031
    Iran.........................................................  2050
    Iraq.........................................................  2070
    Israel and the occupied territories..........................  2092
    Jordan.......................................................  2124
    Kuwait.......................................................  2137
    Lebanon......................................................  2151
    Libya........................................................  2162
    Morocco......................................................  2170
    Western Sahara...............................................  2189
    Oman.........................................................  2192
    Qatar........................................................  2201
    Saudi Arabia.................................................  2207
    Syria........................................................  2219
    Tunisia......................................................  2230
    United Arab Emirates.........................................  2248
    Yemen........................................................  2256

South Asia:
    Afghanistan..................................................  2277
    Bangladesh...................................................  2294
    Bhutan.......................................................  2315
    India........................................................  2325
    Maldives.....................................................  2367
    Nepal........................................................  2374
    Pakistan.....................................................  2389
    Sri Lanka....................................................  2434

Appendices:
    A. Notes on Preparation of the Reports.......................  2457
    B. Reporting on Worker Rights................................  2459
    C. International Human Rights Conventions....................  2462
    D. Information on International Human Rights Conventions 
      Listed in Appendix C.......................................  2468
    E. FY 1999 U.S. Economic and Security Assistance (Actual 
      Obligations)...............................................  2469
    F. 55th Session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission Voting 
      Record.....................................................  2474
    G. United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights......  2478



                                FOREWORD

                              ----------                              

    The country reports on human rights practices contained 
herein were prepared by the Department of State in accordance 
with sections 126(d) and 502B(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act 
of 1961, as amended. They also fulfill the legislative 
requirements of section 505(c) of the Trade Act of 1974, as 
amended.
    The reports cover the human rights practices of all nations 
that are members of the United Nations and a few that are not. 
They are printed to assist Members of Congress in the 
consideration of legislation, particularly foreign assistance 
legislation.

                                    Benjamin A. Gilman,    
                    Chairman, Committee on International Relations.
                                           Jesse Helms,    
                          Chairman, Committee on Foreign Relations.



                         LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL

                              ----------                              

                                       Department of State,
                               Washington, DC, February 25, 1999.  
Hon. Jesse Helms,
Chairman, Committee on Foreign Relations,
U.S. Senate.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: On behalf of the Secretary of State, I 
am transmitting to you the Country Reports on Human Rights 
Practices for 1998, prepared in compliance with sections 
116(d)(1) and 502(B)(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, 
as amended, and section 505(c) of the Trade Act of 1974, as 
amended.
    We hope this report is helpful. Please let us know if we 
can provide any further information.
            Sincerely,
                                        Barbara Larkin,    
                          Assistant Secretary, Legislative Affairs.
    Enclosure.


                              PREFACE 1999

                              ----------                              


                          HUMAN RIGHTS REPORTS

Why The Reports Are Prepared
    This report 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.
    The responsibility of the United States to speak out on 
behalf of international human rights standards was formalized 
in the early 1970's. In 1976 Congress enacted legislation 
creating a Coordinator of Human Rights in the Department of 
State, a position later upgraded to Assistant Secretary. In 
1994 the Congress created a position of Senior Advisor for 
Women's Rights. Congress also has written into law formal 
requirements that U.S. foreign and trade policy take into 
account countries' human rights and worker rights performance 
and that country reports be submitted to the Congress on an 
annual basis. The first reports, in 1977, covered only 
countries receiving U.S. aid, numbering 82; this year 194 
reports are submitted.
How The Reports Are Prepared
    In August 1993, the Secretary of State moved to strengthen 
further the human rights efforts of our embassies. All sections 
in each embassy were asked to contribute information and to 
corroborate reports of human rights violations, and new efforts 
were made to link mission programming to the advancement of 
human rights and democracy. In 1994 the Bureau of Human Rights 
and Humanitarian Affairs was reorganized and renamed as the 
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, reflecting both a 
broader sweep and a more focused approach to the interlocking 
issues of human rights, worker rights, and democracy. The 1999 
human rights reports reflect a year of dedicated effort by 
hundreds of State Department, Foreign Service, and other U.S. 
Government employees.
    Our embassies, which prepared the initial drafts of the 
reports, gathered information throughout the year from a 
variety of sources across the political spectrum, including 
government officials, jurists, military sources, journalists, 
human rights monitors, academics, and labor activists. This 
information-gathering can be hazardous, and U.S. Foreign 
Service Officers regularly go to great lengths, under trying 
and sometimes dangerous conditions, to investigate reports of 
human rights abuse, monitor elections, and come to the aid of 
individuals at risk, such as political dissidents and human 
rights defenders whose rights are threatened by their 
governments.
    After the embassies completed their drafts, the texts were 
sent to Washington for careful review by the Bureau of 
Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, in cooperation with other 
State Department offices. As they worked to corroborate, 
analyze, and edit the reports, the Department officers drew on 
their own sources of information. These included reports 
provided by U.S. and other human rights groups, foreign 
government officials, representatives from the United Nations 
and other international and regional organizations and 
institutions, and experts from academia and the media. Officers 
also consulted with experts on worker rights issues, refugee 
issues, military and police matters, women's issues, and legal 
matters. The guiding principle was to ensure that all relevant 
information was assessed as objectively, thoroughly, and fairly 
as possible.
    The reports in this volume will be used as a resource for 
shaping policy, conducting diplomacy, and making assistance, 
training, and other resource allocations. They also will serve 
as a basis for the U.S. Government's cooperation with private 
groups to promote the observance of internationally recognized 
human rights.
    The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices cover 
internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and 
worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of 
Human Rights. These rights include freedom from torture or 
other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; 
from prolonged detention without charges; from disappearance or 
clandestine detention; and from other flagrant violations of 
the right to life, liberty, and the security of the person.
    Universal human rights aim to incorporate respect for human 
dignity into the processes of government and law. All persons 
have the inalienable right to change their government by 
peaceful means and to enjoy basic freedoms, such as freedom of 
expression, association, assembly, movement, and religion, 
without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national 
origin, or sex. The right to join a free trade union is a 
necessary condition of a free society and economy. Thus the 
reports assess key internationally recognized worker rights, 
including the right of association; the right to organize and 
bargain collectively; prohibition of forced or compulsory 
labor; the status of child labor practices and the minimum age 
for employment of children; and acceptable work conditions.
    Within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 
the editorial staff of the Country Reports Team consists of: 
Editor in Chief--Marc J. Susser; Supervisory Editor--Leslie A. 
Gerson; Managing Editor--Jeannette P. Dubrow; Technical 
Editor--Larry Arthur; Editors--Liana Brooks, Frank B. Crump, 
Joan Garner, Stanley Ifshin, David T. Jones, Lisa N. Kaplan, 
Susan F. Kovalik, Amy E. McKee, Gregory P. Moody, Diana D. 
Perry-Elby, Yvette Saint-Andre, Rachel D. Settlage, John C. 
Sheerin, Carol A. Timko, James C. Todd, Stephen W. Worrel; 
Assistant Editors--John Bradshaw, Charles J. Brown, Christine 
Camillo, Douglas B. Dearborn, Carol G. Finerty, Jose Garriga, 
Ramona Harper, Peter Higgins, Ann Hudock, Alex Kronemer, Susan 
Keogh, Paul Martin, Edmund McWilliams, Robert L. Norman, David 
Park, Maria Pica, Susan O'Sullivan, Tamara J. Resler, Mark D. 
Schall, Madeleine Seidenstricker, Wendy L. Shapiro, Wendy B. 
Silverman, Mark A. Simonoff, Yvonne F. Thayer, Amy Young, 
Robert C. Ward; Editorial Assistants--Charmaine Coleman, Linda 
Hayes, Katie Janick, Laura Muir, Carrie O'Connell, Jennifer 
Pekkinen, Joshua Rubinstein, Vonzella Taylor, Eunice Watson.


              INTRODUCTION TO THE 1999 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT

    I. The Third Globalization: Transnational Human Rights Networks

    Today, all the talk is of globalization. But far too often, 
both its advocates and its critics have portrayed globalization 
as an exclusively economic and technological phenomenon. In 
fact, in the new millennium, there are at least three universal 
``languages:'' money, the Internet, and democracy and human 
rights. An overlooked ``third globalization''--the rise of 
transnational human rights networks of both public and private 
actors--has helped develop what may over time become an 
international civil society capable of working with 
governments, international institutions, and multinational 
corporations to promote both democracy and the standards 
embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
    In Davos recently, President Clinton noted that ``Since 
globalization is about more than economics, our interdependence 
requires us to find ways to meet the challenges of advancing 
our values.'' In 1999 the United States continued to meet that 
challenge. As a leader in promoting democracy and human rights 
around the world, the United States played an essential and 
catalyzing role in the process of creating transnational human 
rights networks. Just this past year, President Clinton and 
Secretary Albright helped forge international solutions to the 
crises in Kosovo and East Timor by encouraging a wide range of 
governmental and nongovernmental actors to join together in 
public-private networks to promote international justice. The 
United States is committed to the long-term project of helping 
such networks develop into an international civil society, an 
effective partnership of governments, international agencies, 
multinational corporations, and nongovernmental organizations 
(NGO's) that will support democracy worldwide and promote the 
standards embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human 
Rights.
    The great American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, 
Jr. acknowledged ``the interrelatedness of all communities and 
states . . . caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, 
tied in a single garment of destiny.'' What Dr. King 
understood, even 40 years ago, was the need--in an increasingly 
interdependent world--for governments, businesses, NGO's, and 
individuals to work together as agents of change. But what Dr. 
King could not fully envision was an era in which these growing 
national networks would face both the profound opportunities 
and the challenges posed by globalization.
    Traditionally, networks have evolved out of communities of 
like-minded individuals who gather around shared interests and 
values. Often they begin as informal conversations, over dinner 
tables and conference tables, which help individuals identify a 
shared set of values and standards upon which they can base 
their behavior. They help generate what de Tocqueville called 
``habits of the heart''--those characteristics of human nature 
that encourage otherwise isolated individuals to connect with 
one another into a broader community. At times, private 
networks coalesce into a single NGO. More frequently, however, 
they remain loose coalitions of membership-based citizens' 
lobbies, labor unions, foundations, academics, professional 
associations, religious bodies, and other groups that share a 
desire to identify solutions to a single problem.
    Such networks developed at the neighborhood, the community, 
and at times the national level. But today, new kinds of 
networks--linked by air transport, telecommunications, the 
global media, and the Internet--are helping create 
transnational communities of shared institutions, shared ideas, 
and--most importantly--shared values. We are rapidly moving 
toward a global network of government officials, activists, 
thinkers, and practitioners who share a common commitment to 
democracy, the universality of human rights, and respect for 
the rule of law.
    Not surprisingly, the emergence of global 
telecommunications and commercial networks--the two other new 
``global languages''--have served as important driving forces 
behind this trend. Just as the Berlin Wall once stood as a 
physical barrier to movement and the free spread of democracy, 
governments that abuse human rights also seek to build walls 
that will stop the free flow of information. But the global 
information revolution has perforated such walls: E-mail, the 
Internet, cell phones, and other technologies have helped 
activists from around the globe to connect with one another in 
ways that were impossible only 10 years ago. The Internet has 
created a world in which traditional hierarchical, 
bidirectional models of authority have been replaced by 
nonhierarchical, multidirectional systems that naturally feed 
the growth of transnational networks. Similarly, the global 
commercial revolution has multiplied contact points between 
open and closed societies. As corporations, banks, 
international financial institutions, and private investors 
engage with transitional societies, they increasingly serve as 
transmission belts for human rights norms and advocates for 
human rights improvements.
    Increasingly, some of the most successful transnational 
networks are those that partner with, respond to, or support 
government initiatives on behalf of democracy and human rights. 
Perhaps the best example of the power of such public-private 
network partnerships can be found in the developments over the 
past year in Kosovo and East Timor. In the days and weeks 
leading up to both NATO's decision to use military force to 
stop Serb atrocities in Kosovo and the United Nations' decision 
to use military force to stop militia and army human rights 
abuses in East Timor, transnational networks of human rights 
activistsplayed a key role. During and after the Kosovo crisis, 
networks of human rights advocates and humanitarian relief workers 
worked closely with governments, the International Criminal Tribunal 
for the Former Yugoslavia, and NATO and KFOR forces to document 
allegations of war crimes and violations of humanitarian law. In both 
Kosovo and East Timor, NGO's are working with U.N. missions to build 
networks to support reconstruction, document human rights abuses, and 
support justice initiatives.
    When nongovernmental groups worked with intergovernmental 
agencies and national governments in Kosovo and East Timor, NGO 
efforts enriched government policy-creation efforts, and 
governments in turn helped guide and coordinate the work of 
NGO's. As a result of this public-private collaboration, 
governments successfully pooled their military and financial 
resources to halt the atrocities, and the international 
community began the hard work of rebuilding badly damaged 
societies.
    Transnational human rights networks of governments and 
nongovernmental actors have also worked closely together to 
secure the adoption of a wide range of declarations, 
international treaties, conventions, and protocols addressing 
key human rights issues. Many of these networks emerged from 
the world human rights conferences that took place in the 
1990's. At the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 
1993 and the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 
1995, NGO activists worked with democratic governments to 
combat efforts made by dictatorships to distort the 
conferences' final declarations. Both conferences also led to 
the creation of permanent confederations of NGO's, which have 
continued to work in partnership with democratic governments. 
More recently, NGO's and governments have worked together to 
secure agreements on eliminating the worst forms of child labor 
and ending the use of child soldiers.
    Transnational networks have played an important role in 
shaping the robust debate over how to guarantee international 
justice. While various actors in the international community do 
not yet agree fully on how best to address past human rights 
violations, particularly in the context of difficult democratic 
transitions, a great deal of concrete progress nonetheless has 
been made. As recently as the Vienna Conference on Human 
Rights, most governments (and many NGO's) regarded efforts to 
establish international judicial mechanisms to promote justice 
as remote or even utopian. Yet 7 years later, the world has 
witnessed the establishment of International Criminal Tribunals 
for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Indeed, there also has 
been active and sometimes controversial domestic civil and 
criminal litigation against former dictators.
    Each of these developments took place in part because like-
minded governments worked with NGO's to create a public-private 
network through which ``the international community'' could 
address critical human rights concerns. To be sure, no 
international consensus yet exists on many international 
justice issues, including the establishment of an International 
Criminal Court. However, the critical achievements of 
transnational human rights networks have been to place 
international justice issues on the agenda and to search for 
forums in which justice ultimately can be reached.
    The United States continues to be a leader in the formation 
of new transnational human rights networks. For example, the 
U.S. Institute of Peace and the Department of State recently 
hosted a roundtable on justice and reconciliation at which 
visiting Indonesian officials drew on the experiences of five 
other countries--El Salvador, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, 
and South Korea--that have confronted the human rights abuses 
of prior authoritarian regimes while making the transition to 
democracy. Participants focused on the advantages and 
disadvantages of a range of mechanisms for promoting justice 
and reconciliation: Truth commissions, noncriminal sanctions, 
criminal accountability, and compensation for victims. Other 
recent successful efforts at human rights networking began at a 
private-public conference at the United States Holocaust Museum 
in Washington to discuss the design of an atrocities prevention 
information and action network and at a public-private 
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) 
supplemental Human Dimension Meeting on Roma and Sinti issues.
    In a number of critical areas, the Department of State has 
appointed special representatives to take the lead on building 
and working with existing human rights and civil society 
networks. As 1999 ended, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury 
Stuart Eizenstat, in his role as Special Representative of the 
President and Secretary of State on Holocaust-Era Issues, 
catalyzed efforts by the German Government and German industry 
to capitalize a multibillion dollar foundation to make payments 
to those who worked as forced and slave laborers for German 
companies during the Nazi era and to others who were injured 
during World War II. He also helped stimulate the work of the 
historical commissions of 19 nations, including the United 
States, to examine their roles during the War and their 
relationship to Holocaust-related assets.
    Others have played an equally important role. Under 
Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Alan Larson has worked 
with a wide range of civil society groups in the Department's 
advisory group on international economic policy and the 
transatlantic consumer dialog. He also plays an active role in 
bringing the private business sector together with other civil 
society groups to address issues ranging from foreign economic 
policy to corporate responsibility. Robert Seiple, Ambassador 
atLarge for International Religious Freedom, has worked closely 
with advisory groups and religious organizations, as well as the 
Commission on International Religious Freedom, to develop strategies to 
expand religious freedom worldwide. David Scheffer, Ambassador at Large 
for War Crimes Issues, has undertaken similar efforts along with 
governments, intergovernmental entities, and NGO's dedicated to 
accountability and justice for past abuses and prevention of future 
atrocities. Joseph Onek, the Department of State's Global Rule of Law 
Coordinator, has built partnerships with bar associations, ministries 
of justice, judicial and prosecutorial training centers, and legal 
academics to promote rule of law and legal institutions worldwide. 
Theresa Loar, the Department's Senior Coordinator on Women's Issues and 
Director of the President's Interagency Council on Women, has worked 
closely with existing global networks to promote women's rights as 
human rights leading to the fifth anniversary of the Beijing Women's 
Conference. Sandra Polaski, the Secretary's Special Representative for 
International Labor Affairs, has strengthened the connection between 
the Department of State and the international labor movement by 
regularly convening the Secretary's Advisory Committee on International 
Labor Diplomacy and expanding the international labor function within 
the Department of State.
    Over the past 2 years, public-private transnational 
networks also have helped advance and promote the cause of 
democracy, as both a fundamental human right in itself and as a 
means to greater protection for a wide range of human rights. 
One of the most startling political changes of the post-Cold 
War era has been the explosion in the number of democracies 
worldwide: By most counts the number of democratic governments 
expanded fourfold in the last quarter of the 20th Century, from 
30 in 1974 to some 120 today. The U.S. Government's democracy-
promotion efforts have played an important role in bringing 
about this fundamental revolution in the way most nations are 
governed.
    In 1999 U.S. democracy-promotion strategy set out upon four 
new paths: Priority-setting; resource-matching; standard-
setting; and network-building. First, in an effort to give 
greater priority in U.S. support to countries that are at 
critical transition points in their movement toward democracy, 
Secretary of State Albright designated four countries--
Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Ukraine--as ``democracy 
priority'' countries. Second, the Secretary used her 
legislatively enhanced authority over the Agency for 
International Development to gain greater oversight over the 
assistance budgeting process, thereby seeking to channel more 
resources directly to the democracy priority countries. Third, 
to make clear that the right of democratic governance is not 
simply a privilege or a luxury, the United States introduced a 
resolution at the 55th Session of the United Nations Human 
Rights Commission in Geneva that explicitly reaffirmed that 
each individual has not just a hope of, but a right to, 
democratic governance: the resolution passed by a margin of 51-
0, with only 2 member countries abstaining.
    Fourth and finally, an impressive series of gatherings has 
helped lay the groundwork for creating a worldwide community of 
democracy activists and practitioners. In Mali, African 
governments and democratic activists met with aid officials 
from donor nations to discuss democratic development. In India, 
the world's democratic NGO's gathered in the first meeting of 
the ``Worldwide Movement for Democracy'' to discover shared 
values that transcend regional, cultural, or religious 
differences. In Yemen, small and emerging democracies met to 
identify common concerns. In Romania, new and restored 
democracies agreed on an agenda of action to support democracy 
in international fora. In the Republic of Korea, activists 
gathered at separate events to discuss the interrelationship 
between democracy and economic growth and the need for a 
network of Asian democrats. In Austria, Iceland, Northern 
Ireland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay, women from 
government and NGO communities gathered at Vital Voices 
conferences to promote greater political participation for 
women in democratic dialog.
    In the first months of 2000, U.S. democracy-promotion 
efforts have expanded in two new directions. First, as 
challenges to democratic governance have emerged in Paraguay, 
Cote d'Ivoire, Ecuador, and Pakistan, the global democratic 
network has worked to develop common strategies not just to 
promote ``democratic advance,'' but also to combat ``democratic 
backsliding.''
    Second, to develop a full-fledged intergovernmental dialog 
among those nations of the world committed to pursuing a 
democratic path and to explore how best to strengthen 
democratic institutions and processes, the foreign ministers of 
Poland, the Czech Republic, Chile, India, the Republic of 
Korea, Mali, and the United States have agreed to convene in 
Warsaw, Poland, in June 2000 a meeting of the ``Community of 
Democracies.'' This intergovernmental gathering should provide 
an unprecedented opportunity for established, emerging, and 
aspiring democracies to exchange experiences, to identify best 
practices, and to formulate an agenda for international 
cooperation in order to realize democracy's full potential. 
Concurrent with the ministerial meeting, a number of 
distinguished thinkers and path-breaking promoters of democracy 
from around the world will gather in Warsaw to discuss 
complementary issues and ideas. These representatives of 
intellectual life and civil society will present to the 
ministerial meeting their ideas as to how governments and 
citizens can better work together to strengthenand preserve 
democracy, thereby helping to strengthen the public-private regime 
dedicated to democracy-promotion and preservation.
    Transnational human rights and democracy networks also can 
play an influential role in securing change within 
international institutions. In recent years, the World Bank, 
Regional Development Banks, and the United Nations Development 
Program, with the support of the U.S. Government, all actively 
have sought out dialog with a wide range of human rights and 
democracy groups to integrate respect for human rights, 
democratic governance, and the rule of law into their vision of 
human development. Much of the work of the U.N. Commissions on 
Human Rights and the Status of Women now takes place on the 
margins of the formal sessions, in informal networking among 
governments, and between NGO's and governments. Other U.N. 
bodies, such as UNICEF, UNIFEM, and the offices of the U.N. 
High Commissioners for Refugees and Human Rights frequently 
seek out the counsel of networks of like-minded governments, 
NGO's, and regional organizations, such as the European Union, 
the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Organization of American 
States, and the Organization for African Unity.
    In addition in areas ranging from environmental protection 
to human rights, corporations have begun to meet regularly not 
only with unions but with broader transnational human rights 
networks to identify how they can work together to solve 
problems. Corporate social responsibility increasingly has been 
accepted as a core tenet of global corporate citizenship, 
generating gatherings from Davos to San Francisco to London, as 
well as new networks of concern, including the new Global 
Sullivan Principles, the Fair Labor Association, the Worker 
Rights Consortium, the SA 8000 initiative, the ``No Sweat'' 
Initiative, and the Apparel Industry Partnership.
    The U.S. Government has sought to encourage this trend by 
interacting and building alliances with multinational 
corporations that share a commitment has to establish a public-
private network devoted to human rights advancement. In 
partnership with American companies, we have developed a set of 
voluntary Model Business Principles; we also have worked with 
the business and labor communities as well as the International 
Labor Organization to promote 1998's Declaration on Core Labor 
Standards. We are working closely with the garment and footwear 
industries, trade unions, and community activists to combat the 
still-too-pervasive reality of sweatshop labor at home and 
abroad. Most recently, we have been exploring new ways to work 
together with community activists, human rights NGO's, and 
corporations working in the extractive industries to promote 
human rights, support democratic institutions, and strengthen 
the rule of law, particularly in the three democracy-priority 
countries of Colombia, Indonesia, and Nigeria.
    In every area, the work of the U.S. Government in 
democracy, human rights, and labor is increasingly being done 
not in isolation, but in partnership: Not just with other 
public entities, such as governments and intergovernmental 
organizations and international financial institutions, but 
with private entities, such as human rights and humanitarian 
NGO's; the media; labor unions; religious organizations; and 
corporations and commercial entities. As the new millennium 
unfolds, these transnational human rights networks will only 
expand and flourish. As international commerce and 
telecommunications continue to bind the world's peoples 
together, the United States will remain committed to using the 
universal language of human rights to build public-private 
networks to promote democracy and human rights worldwide.

                         II. The Year in Review

    Perhaps because there was no defining moment like the 
collapse of the Berlin Wall, few analysts noticed that 1999 saw 
as profound a positive trend toward freedom as 1989. Thanks to 
democratic elections in Indonesia and Nigeria, two of the 
world's most populous states, more people came under democratic 
rule than in any other recent year, including 1989. In 
addition, the NATO intervention in Kosovo and the international 
intervention in East Timor demonstrated that the international 
community has the will and the capacity to act against the most 
profound violations of human rights.
    Yet these significant gains in democracy and human rights 
cannot overshadow the fact that the past year also saw a number 
of profound challenges to human rights. Serbia's expulsion of 
over 850,000 Albanians, the Indonesian military's complicity in 
the militia rampage through East Timor, and the horrors 
perpetrated by rebels in Sierra Leone all show that the world 
still has a long way to go before it fully adheres to the 
precepts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 
addition, the coup in Pakistan and popular dissatisfaction in 
Latin America clearly demonstrate that the road to democratic 
governance is not without its problems and challenges. And 
despite the gains in Nigeria and Indonesia, too many 
authoritarian governments continue to deny basic human rights, 
including the right to democracy, to their citizens. The 
following sections highlight key developments over the past 
year in human rights, democracy, and labor.

                    A. Developments in Human Rights

    1. The Right to Democratic Dissent. Article One of the 
United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders states 
that ``Everyone hasthe right . . . to promote and to strive for 
the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental 
freedoms.'' All too often, we take this principle for granted. Yet each 
year, dedicated human rights activists and democratic dissidents around 
the world lose their lives defending this remarkable, transforming 
idea. In a large number of the countries covered in this report, human 
rights defenders and democratic dissidents face harassment, 
imprisonment, disappearances, or torture; in some cases, the risk comes 
from government sources. In many others, however, the risk is from 
nongovernmental insurgent, terrorist, or criminal elements.
    Certain countries seem to take particular pleasure in 
restricting the right to democratic dissent. Take Serbia, where 
the Government of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia President 
Slobodan Milosevic initiated a brutal and indiscriminate police 
and military crackdown against ethnic Albanian opponents in 
Kosovo and sought to limit and suppress dissent closer to home. 
The Kosovo campaign ended only after the international 
community intervened militarily. Before and during the 
conflict, Kosovar Albanians known to oppose the regime were 
murdered, raped, disappeared, expelled, or detained in Serbian 
prisons. In addition over 850,000 Kosovar Albanian civilians 
were expelled forcibly to neighboring Albania, Montenegro, and 
the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Severe violations of 
human rights, though less dramatic, also characterized the 
situation in the Serbian heartland, where the regime muzzled 
independent voices and forcibly dispersed citizens peaceably 
protesting government policies.
    Similarly in Cuba, the regime of Fidel Castro continued to 
suppress opposition and criticism. Cuban authorities routinely 
harass, threaten, arbitrarily arrest, detain, imprison, and 
defame human rights advocates and members of independent 
professional associations, including journalists, economists, 
doctors, and lawyers, often with the goal of coercing them into 
leaving the country. The Government denied political dissidents 
and human rights advocates due process and subjected them to 
unfair trials. Many remained in prison at year's end. Although 
the Government sought to discourage and thwart foreign contacts 
with human rights activists, it did publicly state before the 
Ibero-American Summit in November that visiting delegations 
were free to meet with any person in the country, and about 20 
dissidents met with 9 different delegations, including 3 heads 
of state. Prior to the summit, however, authorities temporarily 
detained a number of human rights activists to prevent them 
from preparing for meetings with the visiting leaders.
    In Asia, dissidents and defenders face a range of 
challenges. In China, authorities broadened and intensified 
their efforts to suppress those perceived to threaten 
government power or national stability. Citizens who sought to 
express openly dissenting political and religious views faced 
widespread repression. In the weeks leading up to both June 
4th, the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, and 
October 1st, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the 
People's Republic, the Government moved against political 
dissidents across the country, detaining and formally arresting 
scores of activists in cities and provinces nationwide and 
thwarting any attempts to use the anniversaries as 
opportunities for protest. Authorities targeted members of the 
China Democracy Party (CDP), which had already had three of its 
leaders sentenced to lengthy prison terms in December 1998. 
Beginning in May, dozens of CDP members were arrested in a 
widening crackdown, and additional CDP leaders were convicted 
of subversion and sentenced to long prison terms in closed 
trials that flagrantly violated due process. Others were kept 
detained for long periods without charge. In addition both 
leaders and followers of the popular Falun Gong spiritual 
movement faced harassment, beatings, arrest, detention, and in 
some cases, sentences to prison terms for protesting the 
Government's decision to outlaw their practice. Many not 
formally arrested reportedly were sentenced administratively, 
without trial, to up to 3 years in reeducation-through-labor 
camps. By year's end, almost all of the key leaders of the CDP 
were serving long prison terms, and only a handful of 
dissidents nationwide dared to remain active publicly.
    In North Korea, government repression is so severe that no 
organized opposition to the regime is known to exist. The 
Government regards almost any independent activity--including 
listening to foreign broadcasts, writing letters, and 
possessing ``reactionary'' printed matter--crimes against the 
state. In Burma, the military junta intensified its systematic 
use of coercion and intimidation to restrict further freedom of 
association. Authorities undertook a sustained, systematic 
campaign to destroy the National League for Democracy (NLD) 
without formally banning it, pressuring thousands of NLD party 
members to resign and closing NLD offices throughout the 
country. Hundreds of prodemocracy activists remain in jail. 
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has had to constrain her 
activities as a result of threats from the junta, which has 
severely restricted her freedom of movement.
    Dissidents and defenders in the former Soviet Union also 
faced problems. In Belarus, two well-known opposition leaders 
disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Government security 
forces closely monitored human rights activists and arbitrarily 
arrested, detained, and beat political opponents and average 
citizens. Similarly in Uzbekistan, security forces arbitrarily 
arrested or detained human rights activists, pious Muslims, and 
other citizens on false charges. At least one human 
rightsactivist died in prison, allegedly after not receiving adequate 
medical care. In Turkmenistan, opposition figures and human rights 
activists regularly face arbitrary arrest, prolonged pretrial 
detention, unfair trials, and interference with privacy.
    In the Middle East, dissidents and defenders had to contend 
with similar difficulties. In Iraq, the regime of Saddam 
Hussein continued to commit widespread, serious, and systematic 
human rights abuses, summarily executing actual and perceived 
political opponents. In Syria, the Government uses its vast 
powers to quash all organized political opposition.
    Defenders and dissidents in Africa also faced severe 
challenges. In Sudan, despite the adoption of a new 
Constitution through a referendum in June 1998, the Government 
continues to restrict most civil liberties, including freedom 
of assembly, association, religion, and movement. Government 
security forces regularly tortured, beat, harassed, arbitrarily 
arrested, and detained opponents or suspected opponents of the 
Government, and they did so with impunity. Government forces 
also were responsible for extrajudicial killings and 
disappearances. In Equatorial Guinea, the Government encouraged 
the illegal kidnaping and involuntary repatriation of political 
opponents living abroad. There are no effective domestic human 
rights NGO's, and in April the Government promulgated a new law 
that further restricted NGO's and precluded them from 
functioning in the area of human rights.
    A growing trend around the world is the threat posed to 
democratic dissent by nongovernmental insurgent, terrorist, or 
criminal forces. In Colombia, for example, paramilitary forces, 
some with links to the armed forces, were responsible for the 
murder of numerous human rights activists as well as threats 
against many others. Guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed 
Forces of Colombia (FARC) murdered three American indigenous 
rights activists who had traveled to that country to work with 
local indigenous leaders. In Sri Lanka, human rights defender 
and Tamil parliamentarian Neelan Tiruchelvam was killed by a 
suicide bomber believed to be linked with the separatist 
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
    Some countries saw improvements in the treatment of 
defenders and dissidents. Domestic human rights organizations 
continued to play a significant and increasing role in securing 
improved human rights conditions, although some NGO's reported 
monitoring and interference by the authorities. In April the 
Parliament repealed the 1963 Anti-Subversion Law, although it 
subsequently incorporated six crimes specified in that law into 
the Criminal Code. In March, the Habibie Government freed 52 
political prisoners, and in December the Wahid Government freed 
196 more. However, activists working in East and West Timor, 
Aceh, and Papua (Irian Jaya) continued to face significant 
restrictions on and interference in their activity.
    A number of governments took the positive step of releasing 
prominent defenders and dissidents. In Turkey, the Government 
suspended for 6 months the sentence of former Human Rights 
Association Chairman Akin Birdal, citing medical reasons 
stemming from injuries Birdal sustained during a May 1998 
attempt on his life. However, Birdal is subject to 
reimprisonment to resume his sentence in March 2000 and also 
faces many other charges. In Tunisia, the Government released 
on early parole Tunisian Human Rights League Vice President 
Khemais Ksila, who was arrested in September 1997 and convicted 
on charges of defamation of the public order, dissemination of 
false information, and inciting the public to violence. In 
Morocco, political dissident Abraham Serfaty, who had been 
exiled since 1991, was allowed to return. In Bhutan, the 
Government released dissident and former government official 
Tek Nath Rizal, who had been held for nearly 10 years. In 
Russia, retired Russian naval captain and environmental 
activist Aleksandr Nikitin was acquitted of espionage charges, 
but his legal difficulties and official harassment continue. 
The passport and visa services office has refused to issue him 
an international passport, and the local tax police have called 
him in for questioning, claiming that he owes personal income 
tax on all funds that western organizations raised and spent on 
his legal defense.
    2. Human Rights in Countries in Conflict. Civilians 
continue to endure human rights abuses, war crimes, and 
violations of humanitarian law in those countries facing 
internal insurgencies or civil war. Throughout the world, 
insurgents, paramilitary forces, and government security, 
military, and police forces used murder, rape, and inhumane 
tactics to assert control over territory, to secure the 
cooperation of civilians, and to silence opposition voices. As 
was the case in previous years, tens of thousands of civilian 
men, women, and children continued to die not only from 
conflict, but also from premeditated campaigns intended to 
instill terror among civilian populations.
    Africa continues to be the locus of many of the world's 
worst conflicts. In Sierra Leone, rebel forces committed 
numerous egregious abuses, including murder, abduction, 
deliberate mutilations, and rape. Progovernment militias also 
committed abuses, albeit on a lesser scale. The rebels 
continued their particularly vicious practice of cutting off 
the ears, noses, hands, arms, and legs of noncombatants--
including small children and elderly women. Rebel forces 
abducted missionaries, aid workers, U.N. personnel, and 
journalists; ambushed humanitarian relief convoys; raided 
refugee sites; and extorted and stole food. They abducted 
children to use as soldiers and other civilians to serve as 
forced laborers, sex slaves, andhuman shields. After the May 
cease-fire, insurgents continued to commit abuses, although 
significantly fewer were reported.
    Continued civil conflict in the Democratic Republic of 
Congo saw government forces lose control of more than half the 
country's territory to rebels, who were often supported by 
troops from other African countries. Government security forces 
increasingly used arbitrary arrest and detention throughout the 
year and were responsible for numerous extrajudicial killings, 
disappearances, torture, beatings, rapes, and other abuses. 
Rebel forces also committed serious abuses, including murder, 
disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests, rape, extortion, 
robbery, harassment of human rights workers and journalists, 
and recruitment of child soldiers.
    In Angola, fighting between government and rebel forces led 
to numerous, serious human rights abuses by both sides. In 
Burundi, government forces killed both rebels and civilians, 
including women, children, and the elderly. Rebel forces also 
attacked and killed civilians. Rebel attacks on the military 
often generated army reprisals against civilians suspected of 
cooperating with the insurgents. At year's end, the army 
forcibly relocated an estimated 330,000 Hutus in 
``regroupment'' sites in an effort to stop rebel attacks. In 
Uganda, insurgent groups, including the Lord's Resistance Army 
and Allied Democratic Forces, killed, tortured, maimed, raped, 
and abducted many persons (including children).
    Other parts of the world were not immune to conflict. In 
Serbia, Government military and security forces forcibly 
expelled over 850,000 Kosovar Albanians from their homes. Many 
women were raped in the process. The International Criminal 
Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is in the process of 
investigating reports of 11,000 persons killed and buried in 
529 mass graves and has indicted Yugoslav Federal President 
Slobodan Milosevic and several other senior Government 
officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. At the 
conclusion of the conflict, the international community assumed 
responsibility for the administration of Kosovo; since then it 
has had to contend both with Kosovar Albanian reprisals against 
the rump Serbian population and Serb attacks against Albanians 
in the remaining Serb enclaves.
    In Russia, the seizure by armed insurgent groups from 
Chechnya of villages in the neighboring republic of Dagestan 
escalated by year's end into a full-fledged attack by Russian 
forces on separatists in Chechnya, including the Chechen 
capital of Groznyy. The Russian attack included air strikes and 
the indiscriminate shelling of cities predominantly inhabited 
by civilians. These attacks, which in turn led to house-to-
house fighting in Groznyy, led to the death of numerous 
civilians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more. 
There are credible reports of Russian military forces carrying 
out summary executions of civilians in Alkhan-Yurt and in the 
course of the Groznyy offensive. As this report was going to 
press, there were credible reports that Russian forces were 
rounding up Chechen men of military age and sending them to 
``filtration'' camps, where they allegedly were tortured. The 
Russian Government has a duty to protect its citizens from 
terrorist attacks but must comply with its international 
commitments and obligations to protect civilians and must not 
engage in extrajudicial killing, the blocking of borders to 
prevent civilians from fleeing, and other violations in the 
name of internal security. Chechen separatists also reportedly 
committed abuses, including the killing of civilians.
    Afghanistan suffered its 20th consecutive year of civil war 
and political instability. Both the ultraconservative movement 
known as the Taliban (which controls roughly 90 percent of the 
country) and the United Front for Afghanistan (also known as 
the Northern Alliance) committed serious human rights abuses, 
particularly against women and girls, in the areas they 
occupied and during their attempts to conquer territory. Both 
also were responsible for the indiscriminate bombardment of 
civilians. Years of conflict have left an estimated 2.6 million 
Afghans living outside the country as refugees, while another 
250,000 are internally displaced.
    In Indonesia, civil conflict and violence continued or 
worsened despite the country's relatively successful struggle 
to move from dictatorship to democracy. A variety of motives 
drove the violence. Dissatisfaction that had remained pent up 
under the long-time rule of Soeharto boiled over under 
successor Governments. Anger at Indonesian military, security, 
and police units only fed widespread popular support for 
independence in East Timor, Aceh, and Papua (Irian Jaya). In 
Aceh, military forces and police committed numerous abuses, 
including extrajudicial killings, excessive force, 
disappearances, rape, arbitrary arrest, and detention without 
trial. Military forces sometimes resorted to force in order to 
disrupt peaceful demonstrations. Thousands of Acehnese 
residents fled their villages during various security 
crackdowns against separatist groups. In addition, dozens of 
low-level civil servants, police, and military personnel were 
murdered and abducted, most likely by separatists. In Ambon and 
throughout Maluku, fighting between Moslems and Christians left 
more than 1,000 dead by the end of the year. In West 
Kalimantan, more than 200 persons died in fighting pitting 
Madurese immigrants against indigenous Dayak and Melayu groups.
    In East Timor, paramilitary units supported by or under the 
control of the Indonesian military went on a rampage of 
violence, looting, and destruction after a United Nations-
sponsoredreferendum saw more than 78 percent of Timorese vote 
for independence. Elements of the Indonesian security forces and the 
prointegration militias (which were armed and largely supported by the 
military) were responsible for numerous extrajudicial killings. In 
September hundreds of persons were killed in a wave of military-
sponsored militia violence after the announcement of the 
proindependence vote. Over 250,000 East Timorese fled the violence. 
Violations included summary executions, massacres, rapes, deportations, 
and the destruction of property. Both an International Commission of 
Inquiry and an investigative commission established by the Indonesian 
Human Rights Commission subsequently concluded that the Indonesian 
military failed to stop, colluded in, or participated in the violence. 
In the early part of the year, proindependence groups also committed 
serious abuses, including killings.
    In Sri Lanka, the Government's conflict with the separatist 
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continued to result in 
serious human rights abuses by both sides. Government security 
forces committed extrajudicial killings and at least 15 
individuals disappeared from their custody. The Government did 
begin to investigate allegations that as many as 400 Tamils 
killed by security forces were buried in multiple graves in the 
town of Chemmani. Two exhumations recovered 15 bodies, but 
authorities have not yet sought criminal indictments against 
security forces in relation to the killings. LTTE forces were 
responsible for extrajudicial executions, disappearances, 
torture, arbitrary arrests, and detentions. LTTE attacks and 
suicide bombings killed close to 100 civilians, and at least 14 
persons who were found guilty of offenses by the LTTE's self-
described courts were executed publicly.
    In Colombia, despite the Government's efforts to negotiate 
an end to hostilities, widespread internal armed conflict and 
rampant political and criminal violence persisted. Government 
security forces, paramilitary groups, guerrillas, and narcotics 
traffickers all continued to commit numerous serious abuses, 
including extrajudicial killings and torture. Throughout the 
country, paramilitary groups killed, tortured, and threatened 
civilians suspected of sympathizing with guerrillas in an 
orchestrated campaign to terrorize them into fleeing their 
homes. These groups were responsible for numerous massacres. 
Guerrillas regularly attacked civilian populations, kidnapped 
numerous individuals, committed massacres and summary 
executions, killed medical and religious personnel, and 
forcibly recruited civilians (including children). The 
Government took important steps toward ending collaboration by 
some security force members with the paramilitaries. President 
Pastrana, Vice President Bell, and members of the military high 
command declared repeatedly that collaboration--whether by 
commission or omission--by members of the security forces with 
paramilitary groups would not be tolerated. The President 
removed from service four generals and numerous mid-level 
officers and noncommissioned officers for collaboration, for 
failing to confront paramilitaries aggressively, or for failing 
to protect the local population.
    3. Religious Freedom. In September the Department of State 
delivered to Congress the first Annual Report on International 
Religious Freedom. The Department carries a statutory 
responsibility to prepare these reports annually. The Report 
sought to create a comprehensive record of the state of 
religious freedom around the world and to highlight the most 
significant violations of this right. The Report demonstrates 
that violations of religious freedom, including religious 
persecution, are not confined to any one country, religion, or 
nationality. Throughout the world, Baha'is, Buddhists, 
Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and other believers continue 
to suffer for their faith.
    Too much of the world's population still lives in countries 
in which religious freedom is restricted or prohibited. 
Totalitarian and authoritarian regimes remain determined to 
control religious belief and practice. Other regimes are 
hostile to minority or ``unapproved'' religions. Some tolerate, 
and thereby encourage, persecution or discrimination. Still 
other governments have adopted discriminatory legislation or 
policies that give preferences to favored religions while 
disadvantaging others. Some democratic states have 
indiscriminately identified minority religions as dangerous 
``sects'' or ``cults.''
    The International Religious Freedom Act also required the 
President or his designee (in this case the Secretary of State) 
to use the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom and 
other resources to identify those countries where the 
government has engaged in or tolerated ``severe'' or 
``particularly severe'' violations of religious freedom. In 
October Secretary Albright informed Congress that she was 
designating five ``Countries of Particular Concern'': Burma, 
China, Iran, Iraq, and Sudan. The Secretary also informed 
Congress that she was identifying as particularly severe 
violators the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the Government 
of Serbia. This last action was not taken under the auspices of 
the International Religious Freedom Act because the United 
States does not regard the Taliban as a government or Serbia as 
a country as envisioned by the act.
    In Burma, the Government arrests and imprisons Buddhist 
monks who promote human and political rights. Security forces 
destroyed or looted churches, mosques, and Buddhist monasteries 
in some insurgent ethnic minority areas. In some insurgent 
China ethnic minority areas, security forces used coercive 
measures to induce Christians to convert to Buddhism.
    China continued to restrict freedom of religion and 
intensified controls on some unregistered churches. Unapproved 
religious groups, including Protestant and Catholic groups, 
continued to experience varying degrees of official 
interference, repression, and persecution. The Government 
continued to enforce 1994 State Council regulations requiring 
all places of religious activity to register with the 
Government and come under the supervision of official, 
``patriotic'' religious organizations. In some areas, 
authorities guided by national policy made strong efforts to 
control the activities of unapproved Catholic and Protestant 
churches; religious services were broken up and church leaders 
or adherents were harassed, fined, detained, and at times, 
beaten. According to reports, there were instances of torture. 
At year's end, some remained in prison because of their 
religious activities, while others remained unaccounted for. In 
Tibet, the Government expanded and intensified its ``patriotic 
education campaign'' aimed at controlling monasteries and 
expelling supporters of the Dalai Lama, increasing pressure on 
Tibetan Buddhists. Controls on religious freedom in Xinjiang 
also remained tight. The Government also launched a crackdown 
against the Falun Gong spiritual movement in July. Tens of 
thousands of Falun Gong members reportedly were detained in 
outdoor stadiums and forced to sign statements disavowing the 
Falun Gong before being released.
    In Iran, the Government committed numerous human rights 
abuses based in part on religion. Religious minorities, in 
particular Bahais, continued to suffer repression by 
conservative elements of the judiciary and security 
establishment. Thirteen Jews were arrested in February and 
March on suspicion of espionage on behalf of Israel, an offense 
punishable by death, leading to charges of anti-Semitism. In 
Iraq, the Government of Saddam Hussein has conducted a campaign 
of murder, summary execution and protracted arbitrary arrest 
against the religious leaders and adherents of the Shia Muslim 
population. Security forces have murdered senior Shia clerics, 
desecrated mosques and holy sites, and arrested untold numbers 
of Shi'a. In Sudan, discrimination and violence against 
religious minorities persisted. Government security forces 
harassed and detained persons on the basis of their religion. 
Eyewitnesses reported aerial bombardments of Christians, 
Muslims, and animists in the Nuba Mountains. Government-
supported forces conducted raids, abducted persons--including 
women and children--and sold them into slavery. Many non-
Muslims were converted forcibly to Islam.
    In Afghanistan, the ultraconservative movement known as the 
Taliban, which controls about 90 percent of the country, 
enforced their interpretation of Islamic law through 
punishments such as public executions for adultery or murder 
and amputations of one hand and one foot for theft. Taliban 
militiamen often judged accused offenders and meted out 
punishments, such as beatings, on the spot. In Serbia, a 
predominantly Christian Orthodox country, authorities employed 
killing, torture, rape, and the forced mass emigration of 
Kosovar Albanians, who are overwhelmingly Muslim, in an effort 
to drive them from the country.
    Other countries also saw significant violations of 
religious freedom. In Saudi Arabia, neither the Government nor 
society in general accepts the concept of separation of 
religion and state. The religious police enforce adherence to 
Islamic norms, intimidating, abusing, and detaining citizens 
and foreigners. In Pakistan, both the pre and postcoup 
Governments, as well as sectarian groups, continued to 
discriminate against religious minorities, particularly Ahmadis 
and Christians. Three Ahmadis sentenced in 1997 to life in 
prison for blasphemy remain incarcerated. Religious and ethnic-
based rivalries resulted in numerous killings and civil 
disturbances. In India, there was widespread intercaste and 
communal violence.
    In Uzbekistan, the Government harassed and arrested 
hundreds of Islamic leaders and believers on questionable 
grounds, citing the threat of extremism. While the Government 
tolerated the existence of some Christian denominations and 
even facilitated their registration, its laws still have the 
potential to limit the activity of some evangelical Christian 
groups. In Vietnam, the Government arbitrarily arrested and 
detained citizens for the peaceful expression of their 
religious views. The Government significantly restricts the 
operation of religious organizations other than those approved 
by the State.
    In countries such as Indonesia, the problem was not 
government repression, but communal violence. In Maluku 
province, fighting principally involved Muslims and Christians 
(mostly Protestants). More than a thousand died and tens of 
thousands were displaced. Clashes began in the provincial 
capital of Ambon in January, then spread to neighboring 
islands. Economic tensions between native Christians and 
Muslims who migrated to Maluku in recent decades were a 
significant factor. Christian and Muslim communities in Maluku 
blamed each other for initiating and perpetuating the violence. 
Exhaustive mediation efforts, including an initiative launched 
by the Indonesian military in April, failed to secure a durable 
peace.
    In Azerbaijan, the news was better. President Aliyev 
publicly took law enforcement and security officials to task 
for the harassment of religious believers. He also pledged that 
such abuse would not continue and that violators would be 
punished. The Government rescinded deportation orders for 
foreign religious workers, secured the reinstatement of 
believers who had lost their jobs, and prosecuted members of a 
local police force accused of harassment.
    4. Press Freedom and the Information Revolution. Attacks on 
independent media--whether print, broadcast, or electronic--
remained commonplace. Journalists continued to risk harassment, 
arrest, and even death to report the news. Murder remained the 
leading cause of job-related deaths among journalists 
worldwide. A wide range of governments throughout the world 
continue to utilize a variety of tools, including licensing, 
limits on access to newsprint, control over government 
advertising, jamming, and censorship, to inhibit independent 
voices. The growth of new, Internet-based media did help 
facilitate public access to a wide range of information, but 
some governments continued to develop means to monitor e-mail 
and Internet use and restrict access to controversial, 
political, news-oriented, and human rights web sites. Other 
governments have chosen to prohibit Internet access or limit it 
to political elites.
    In China, control and manipulation of the press by the 
Government for political purposes increased during the year. 
After authorities moved at the end of 1998 to close a number of 
newspapers and fire several editors, the press and publishing 
industries were more cautious. Nonetheless, the press continued 
to report on cases of corruption and abuse of power by some 
local officials. As part of its crackdown against the Falun 
Gong, the Government used the state-controlled media to conduct 
a nationwide propaganda campaign. By some estimates, as many as 
8.9 million Chinese citizens had access to the Internet, but 
the Government increased its efforts to try to restrict 
information available on the Internet and to monitor usage.
    In Cuba, the Castro regime continued to tightly control 
access to information. In February the National Assembly passed 
the Law to Protect National Independence and the Economy, which 
outlaws possession and dissemination of ``subversive'' 
literature or information that could be used by U.S. 
authorities in the application of U.S. legislation. The 
Government has not yet charged anyone under the new law, but 
many independent journalists have been threatened with arrest, 
some repeatedly. National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon 
told foreign correspondents that even reporters working for 
accredited foreign media could be sentenced to up to 20 years 
in prison under the new law. The Government continued to 
subject independent journalists to internal travel bans, 
arbitrary and periodic brief detentions, small acts of 
repudiation, harassment, seizures of office and photographic 
equipment, and repeated threats of prolonged imprisonment. The 
Government tightly controls access to computers, limiting 
access to the Internet to certain Government offices, selected 
institutes, and foreigners.
    In Serbia, the Government of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 
President Slobodan Milosevic continues to harass and detain 
journalists and shut down their newspapers and radio stations. 
At least one journalist was murdered under suspicious 
circumstances. In Serbia's sister republic of Montenegro, 
however, the Government worked to provide a hospitable working 
environment to independent media, including media that were 
harassed, threatened, or shut down by Serbian authorities.
    In Ethiopia, fewer journalists were detained than in 
previous years, but at least eight remained in detention at 
year's end. Some 45 journalists obtained bail during the year 
but still are subject to trial. In Peru, the Government 
inhibits freedom of speech and of the press. Journalists faced 
increased government harassment and intimidation and practiced 
a great degree of self-censorship.
    In Ukraine, the Government increasingly interfered with 
freedom of the press, most notably in the period before the 
October presidential elections. Government authorities stepped 
up pressure on the media, particularly broadcast outlets, 
through tax inspections and other measures. In Russia, 
journalists complained of increasing governmental interference. 
In mid-January 2000, Russian authorities detained Radio Free 
Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Andrey Babitskiy and held 
him incommunicado, but they did not make public his detention 
until the end of the month. On February 3, the Government 
claimed that Russian forces had turned Babitskiy over to 
Chechen forces in exchange for Russian soldiers; neither 
Babitskiy's wife nor his employer has heard from him since, and 
his whereabouts remain unknown.
    In Turkey, Parliament suspended for 3 years the sentences 
of writers and journalists convicted of crimes involving 
freedom of expression through the media. By the end of the 
year, at least 25 had been released. However, the law did not 
apply to crimes committed through speech, and human rights 
observers and some released writers said the conditions for the 
suspension amount to censorship. Limits on freedom of speech 
and of the press remained a serious problem. Authorities banned 
or confiscated publications and raided newspaper offices, and 
security forces occasionally beat journalists. Police continued 
to interfere with the distribution of some Kurdish newspapers, 
and radio and television broadcasts in Kurdish remained 
illegal. Although Kurdish music recordings were widely 
available, bans on certain songs and singers persisted. The 
Committee to Protect Journalists estimated at year's end that 
at least 18 journalists remain in prison.
    5. Women. The plight of women in Afghanistan continued to 
be the most serious women's human rights crisis in the world 
today. Taliban discrimination against women and girls remained 
both systematic and institutionally sanctioned. The Taliban 
imposed strict dress codes and restricted women from working 
outside the home except in very limited circumstances such 
ashealth care and humanitarian assistance. They also severely 
restricted women's and girls' access to many levels and types of 
education. The impact of Taliban restrictions is most acutely felt in 
cities such as Kabul and Herat, where there are a number of educated 
and professional women.
    Elsewhere, women continue to face a wide range of human 
rights abuses. On a daily basis, women faced violence, abuse, 
rape, and other forms of degradation by their spouses and by 
members of society at large. Women suffer domestic violence in 
most if not all countries around the world. Many governments 
still fail to act against ``honor killings,'' domestic 
violence, and even rape. In Nigeria, for example, the law 
allows a husband to ``chastise'' his wife, as long as it does 
not result in ``grievous harm.'' In China, many women contended 
with domestic violence. Coercive family planning practices 
sometimes included forced abortion and forced sterilization. 
Trafficking and prostitution continued. In India, Bangladesh, 
and Nepal, dowry-related violence remained a serious problem. 
In Egypt, India, Iran, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, 
Yemen, and a number of other societies where religion and 
tradition play a predominant role, societal and cultural 
constraints kept women in a subordinate position.
    In Kuwait, women do not have the right to vote or seek 
election to the National Assembly. Although the ruling Amir 
issued a decree in May which sought to give women the right to 
vote, to seek election to the National Assembly beginning with 
the parliamentary election scheduled for 2003, and to hold 
cabinet office, the Parliament vetoed it on constitutional 
grounds. Subsequent identical legislation introduced by Members 
of Parliament was defeated by a two-vote margin.
    Female genital mutilation, which has negative, life-long 
health consequences for women and girls, continues to be 
practiced in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, and to varying degrees 
in some countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, Oman, 
and Yemen. Trafficking of women and children remains endemic in 
many parts of the world; in response, the Department of State 
has for the first time established a separate section in each 
Country Report to highlight U.S. concern about this serious 
problem (see Section C.2 below).
    6. Protection of Minorities. In some states, majorities in 
power choose to mistreat or persecute those not like 
themselves. However, persecution and discrimination is not 
confined to states but also can be present in societies. Much 
remains to be done on the national level, and far too many 
governments do not grant individuals their rights because of 
race, sex, religion, disability, language, or social status. In 
many cases, such repression inevitably leads to violence and 
separatism.
    In China, for example, particularly serious human rights 
abuses persisted in minority areas, especially in Tibet and 
Xinjiang, where restrictions on religion and other fundamental 
freedoms intensified. Some minority groups, particularly 
Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs, came under increasing 
pressure as the Government clamped down on dissent and 
``separatist'' activities. In Tibet, the Government expanded 
and intensified its continuing ``patriotic education campaign'' 
aimed at controlling the monasteries and expelling supporters 
of the Dalai Lama. In Xinjiang, where violence between the 
Government and separatist forces has escalated since 1996, 
authorities tightened restrictions on religion and other 
fundamental freedoms in an effort to control independence 
groups.
    In Serbia, discrimination and violence against Kosovar 
Albanians, Muslims, Roma, and other religious and ethnic 
minorities worsened during the year. The Milosevic regime's 
oppressive policies toward Kosovo's ethnic Albanians imperiled 
prospects for interethnic cooperation and encouraged a 
separatist insurgency. In response, the regime launched a 
brutal police and military crackdown against the insurgents, 
which escalated into a full-fledged campaign of ethnic 
cleansing against civilians. As many as 850,000 Kosovars fled 
the province for squalid camps in neighboring states. After 
diplomatic intervention failed to resolve the matter, NATO 
forces began an air campaign against the Serbian regime. In 
June Serbia withdrew its forces from Kosovo, and the 
international community assumed responsibility for the 
province's administration. Since then, international 
peacekeeping forces have had to contend both with Kosovar 
Albanian reprisals against the rump Serbian population, and 
Serb attacks against Albanians in remaining Serb enclaves.
    Although the erection of a wall to separate Roma from their 
neighbors in the Czech city of Usti nad Labem captured 
international attention, the problems facing Roma and Sinti 
populations in Europe went far beyond the building of a wall. 
Both populations suffer disproportionately from poverty, 
unemployment, and other socioeconomic ills. In many countries, 
particularly in Central and Southeastern Europe, they face 
prejudice, discrimination, and abuse.
    7. The Holocaust: Completing the Historical Record. 
Spearheaded by Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat in 
his capacity as Special Representative of the President and 
Secretary of State on Holocaust-era issues, the United States 
promoted further international recognition of the need for 
justice and remembrance for the victims of the greatest human 
rights violation of the 20th Century, the Holocaust. German 
industry and government pledged DM10 billion to capitalize a 
foundation that, among other things, will make payments to 
those who worked as forced and slave laborers for German 
companies during the Nazi era.Nineteen nations, including the 
United States, have established Holocaust Commissions to review their 
own involvement with Holocaust-era assets. Consistent with the 1998 
Washington Conference on Art Principles, millions of dollars worth of 
art stolen by the Nazis are being returned to rightful owners. At the 
Stockholm International Forum in January 2000, the United States, along 
with over 40 other governments, made an unprecedented common political 
commitment to strengthening Holocaust education, remembrance and 
research activities, and to opening archives bearing on the Holocaust.

B. Developments in Democracy

    1. Democracies Under Threat. In The Third Wave, his seminal 
study of democratization, Samuel Huntington warned that the 
wave of democratization that began with Portugal in 1974 (and 
continues today) might suffer significant reversals in 
countries where conditions for democracy are weak. Over the 
past year, the number of democracies around the world continued 
to grow, but a small number of countries on the path to 
democracy saw reversals or threats to democratic governance.
    This trend was particularly notable in Latin America, where 
elected governments in Ecuador and Paraguay confronted 
attempted coups or instability, and an elected government in 
Peru undermined democratic governance by concentrating power in 
the executive. In Ecuador, what could have been a disastrous 
coup became instead an unfortunate but ultimately 
constitutional succession. Indigenous activists, with the 
support of elements of the military, occupied the Ecuadorian 
Congress building, demanded the resignation of President Jamil 
Mahuad and attempted to replace him with a three-person junta 
that included an indigenous leader, a former Supreme Court 
judge, and a military officer. To end the institutional crisis, 
President Mahuad asked Ecuadorians to support Vice President 
Gustavo Noboa as his constitutional successor. The National 
Assembly confirmed the change in presidents the same day.
    In Paraguay, President Raul Cubas Grau, a protege of 
retired General and coup plotter Lino Oviedo, sought to 
undercut the constitutional authority of the legislative and 
judicial branches. In March, Cubas' foe and Vice President Luis 
Maria Argana was assassinated, allegedly by Oviedo supporters. 
On March 28, after widespread demonstrations against Cubas and 
Oviedo, Cubas resigned, and Oviedo fled Paraguay. Senate 
president Luis Gonzalez Macchi assumed the presidency, forming 
a national unity Government that included, for the first time 
in 50 years, the two major opposition parties. By the end of 
the year, however, the Government faced economic difficulties, 
rural unrest, and increasing opposition.
    In Peru, a dominant executive branch often uses its control 
of the legislature and the judiciary to the detriment of the 
democratic process. The Constitutional Tribunal has not 
functioned effectively since 1997, when Congress removed three 
of its members for opposing an interpretation of a law 
permitting President Fujimori to run for a third consecutive 
term. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez Frias, the leader of 
an attempted coup in 1992, was elected President on a promise 
of radical reform, including constitutional change through the 
election of a National Constitutional Assembly (ANC). In April, 
voters overwhelmingly approved his referendum, giving the ANC a 
6-month mandate to rewrite the Constitution. The ANC, which was 
dominated by Chavez's political party, drafted a new 
constitution, which was approved by voters in December. At 
year's end some observers remained concerned that too much 
power was being concentrated in Chavez's hands.
    In other parts of the world, the main threat to democracy 
came from the military. In Pakistan, Army Chief of Staff 
General Pervaiz Musharraf overthrew the elected civilian 
Government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in an October 
bloodless coup. Musharraf, in consultation with senior military 
commanders, designated himself Chief Executive, and suspended 
the Constitution, the National Assembly, the Senate, and the 
provincial assemblies. Despite repeated promises to restore 
democracy, Musharraf at year's end had not established either a 
timetable or milestones; his decision early in 2000 to require 
judges to swear a loyalty oath to the military (rather than the 
Constitution) further distanced his regime from a return to 
democratic rule.
    In Cote d'Ivoire, retired General Robert Guei took over the 
Government after a mutiny that began in December evolved into a 
major military revolt and culminated in the dismissal and 
forced departure of President Henri Konan Bedie. The Guei 
regime arrested numerous Government ministers and military 
officers; by year's end, it had released all except 40. Guei 
has pledged to rewrite the Constitution, clean up government 
corruption, and hold fair and transparent elections.
    2. Free and Fair Elections. According to Freedom House, 
there were 120 democracies at the end of 1999, a net increase 
of 3 over the previous year, and the largest number ever. As 
noted above, however, this trend away from dictatorship saw 
several reversals, most notably in Pakistan. Although Indonesia 
and Nigeria, two of the world's most populous states, made 
great strides toward democratic rule, a number of other states 
saw tainted or flawed elections stall their transitions to 
democracy.
    Indonesia made significant progress in its transition from 
authoritarian to democratic rule. In June, the country held its 
first pluralistic, competitive, free, and fair 
parliamentaryelections in 43 years. A new Parliament (DPR) and People's 
Consultative Assembly (MPR) were installed on October 1st. In 
accordance with constitutional procedures, the MPR subsequently 
elected, in a transparent balloting procedure, Abdurrahman Wahid as 
President, and Megawati Soekarnoputri as Vice President.
    In Nigeria, the military regime of General Abdulsalami 
Abubakar completed its transition to democratic civilian rule 
with the election and subsequent May inauguration of retired 
General Olusegun Obasanjo as President. In accordance with 
Abubakar's transition program, members of the new civilian 
Government were chosen in four elections held over a 3-month 
period. Elections for local Government leaders were held in 
December 1998, those for state legislators and governors in 
January, and those for national legislators and president in 
February. The elections, most notably the presidential 
election, were flawed, but most observers agreed that the 
election of Obasanjo as President reflected the will of the 
majority of voters.
    Several states saw limited gains. In Tunisia, the October 
presidential and legislative elections marked a modest step 
toward democratic development, with opposition presidential 
candidates allowed to participate in the presidential race for 
the first time in Tunisia's history. However, the campaign and 
election processes greatly favored the ruling party, and there 
was wide disregard for the secrecy of the vote. In Niger, 
President Ibrahim Mainassara Bare, who overthrew a 
democratically elected Government in 1996, was assassinated in 
January by members of his presidential guard. A group of 
military officers led by Major Daouda Malam Wanke asserted 
control over the Government and announced a 9-month transition 
to a democratically elected Government. In July citizens voted 
to approve a new Constitution. In November they voted for a new 
National Assembly and for a new President; Tandja Mamadou was 
elected President with 60 percent of the vote in an election 
that was considered by international observers to be generally 
free and fair.
    Other countries were not as successful in their 
transitions. In Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko's legal term as 
President expired in July. He had extended arbitrarily his term 
of office until 2001 after the illegal 1996 constitutional 
referendum. In Kazakhstan, President Nazarbayev was elected in 
January to a new 7-year term in an election that fell far short 
of international standards. Parliamentary elections held in 
October were an improvement over the presidential election but 
still fell short of international standards. In Azerbaijan, the 
country's first-ever municipal elections held in December, were 
marred by a nearly universal pattern of interference by local 
officials, which allowed them to control the selection of the 
election committees that supervised the election. In Armenia, 
irregularities marred both the May parliamentary elections and 
the October local elections. OSCE observers categorized the 
parliamentary elections as a step toward compliance with OSCE 
commitments, but said that they still failed to meet 
international standards.
    In Haiti, a prolonged stalemate between President Rene 
Preval and the opposition-controlled legislature prevented the 
holding of elections in autumn 1998 to replace the Parliament 
as legally required. Preval announced that he would not 
recognize Parliament's decision to extend its incumbents' 
mandates until new elections could be held, thereby leaving the 
country without a functioning legislative branch for over a 
year. In March, Prime Minister Alexis formed a cabinet after 
negotiations with the five-party opposition coalition. Due to 
the absence of a parliament, the new ministers took office 
without being confirmed. The international community is 
assisting Haiti in preparations for new elections, scheduled 
for March and April 2000, with the goal of restoring the lapsed 
democratic institutions.
    In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni, elected to a 5-year 
term in 1996 under the 1995 Constitution, continued to dominate 
the Government. The 1995 Constitution formally extended the 
one-party movement form of government for 5 years and severely 
restricted political activity. Although Museveni supporters 
remained in control of the legislative branch, Parliament acted 
with increasing independence and assertiveness during the year. 
A national referendum on whether to allow multipartyism again 
is scheduled for 2000.
    3. Civil Society. In many nations, civil society--that 
broad array of nongovernmental organizations, clubs, societies, 
trade unions, and political parties that are the domestic 
counterparts to transnational networks--played an increasingly 
influential role. Although some critics have warned that the 
emergence of the Internet culture would stunt social 
interaction, civil society groups showed no sign of slowing 
down at year's end, and as noted above, many were taking 
advantage of technological developments to establish new 
transnational networks of common interest and concern.
    Many governments continue to seek means to limit, repress, 
or shut down the growth and development of civil society, which 
they regard as a profound threat to their authoritarian rule. 
In Belarus, for example, Government restrictions prevent an 
embryonic civil society from developing further. The security 
services infringed on citizens' privacy rights and monitored 
closely the activities of opposition politicians and other 
segments of the population. Restrictions on freedom of speech, 
the press, and peaceful assembly continued, and the Government 
did not respect freedom of association.
    In Iraq, then-U.N. Special Rapporteur for Iraq Max Van der 
Stoel noted in his February and October reports that freedom of 
speech, press, assembly, movement, and association do not 
exist. The Government effectively has eliminated the civil 
rights to life, liberty, and physical integrity and the 
freedoms of thought, expression, association and assembly. In 
Cuba, the Government denied citizens the freedoms of speech, 
press, assembly, and association. Authorities routinely harass, 
threaten, arbitrarily arrest, detain, imprison, and defame 
members of independent associations, including human rights 
advocates, journalists, economists, doctors, and lawyers, often 
with the goal of coercing them into leaving the country.
    In China, an unknown number of persons, estimated at 
several thousand, have been detained for peacefully expressing 
their political, religious, or social views. Persons or groups 
seeking to promote political change, monitor human rights, or 
in any way challenge the authority of the Communist Party were 
repressed, their leaders often harassed, beaten, and jailed. At 
the same time, most average citizens went about their daily 
lives without significant interference from the Government, 
enjoying looser economic controls, increased access to outside 
sources of information, greater room for individual choice, and 
more diversity in cultural life. Social groups with economic 
resources at their disposal continued to play an increasing 
role in community life. Pilot experiments with contested local 
village elections continued.
    In Malaysia, a U.N. Special Rapporteur reported that the 
Government systematically curtailed freedom of expression. 
Government restrictions and proliferating slander and libel 
suits stifled freedom of speech, and the Government 
significantly restricted freedom of movement, association, and 
assembly. The Government prohibited some peaceful gatherings, 
prevented students from participating in some political 
activities, and regularly and harshly criticizes domestic NGO's 
that venture into the political arena.
    In Turkey, which has an active and growing civil society 
movement, the Government still continued to limit freedom of 
assembly and association, and police harassed, beat, abused, 
and detained a large number of demonstrators. The Saturday 
Mothers, who had held weekly vigils in Istanbul for more than 3 
years to protest the disappearances of their relatives, 
discontinued their gatherings this year in the face of ongoing 
police harassment, abuse, and detention of the group's members. 
In general, the Government continued to harass, intimidate, 
indict, and imprison individuals for ideas that they had 
expressed in public forums. However, there were some signs of a 
growing tolerance for civil society: State Minister Irtemcelik 
and President Demirel met with NGO's, and one office of a human 
rights NGO reopened in October after being closed for 5 years.
    4. Rule of Law. All too often, authoritarian governments 
insist that they respect the rule of law when in fact they 
abuse the law to justify their rule. In far too many 
countries--Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, 
Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam, for example--
absolute rulers use the legal system to serve their own 
interests. Without the rule of law, these leaders violate human 
rights with impunity, suspend democracy, void contracts, and 
engage in corrupt practices. Governments that respect the rule 
of law have transparent and fair legal systems that feature 
professional and independent judges who act as final arbiters 
of the law.
    In China, abuses included instances of extrajudicial 
killings, torture, and other mistreatment of prisoners, forced 
confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, lengthy 
incommunicado detention, and denial of due process. In many 
cases, particularly in sensitive political cases, the judicial 
system denies criminal defendants basic legal safeguards and 
due process. A number of statutes passed in recent years hold 
the potential to enhance citizens' rights. If fully 
implemented, these laws would bring criminal laws closer toward 
compliance with international norms. However, the new statutes 
are violated routinely in cases involving political dissidents.
    In Malaysia, police continued to use certain provisions of 
the legal code to detain some individuals without trial or 
charge. Prolonged pretrial detention occurs in some cases. The 
police were criticized for reports of physical abuse of 
prisoners and other citizens, although the number of police 
extrajudicial killings declined during the year. Many observers 
expressed serious concern about the decreasing independence and 
impartiality of the judiciary and about apparently politically 
motivated selective prosecution by the Attorney General.
    In Pakistan, rule of law problems were rampant both before 
and after the October coup. The judiciary was subject to 
executive and other outside influence and suffers from 
inadequate resources, inefficiency, and corruption. The former 
Sharif Government used special antiterrorism courts to try the 
crimes of murder, gang rape, child molestation, and ``illegal'' 
strikes. After the coup, General Musharraf illegally detained a 
number of political figures from the Sharif Government and 
their families.
    In Algeria, the authorities did not always respect 
defendants' rights to due process, and security forces 
committed extrajudicial killings, tortured detainees, and 
arbitrarily detained many individuals suspected of involvement 
with armed Islamist groups. However, there were no reports of 
new disappearances during the year in which the security forces 
were suspected. Prolonged pretrial detention and lengthy trial 
delaysare problems, as are illegal searches and infringements 
on citizens' privacy rights.
    In Peru, arbitrary arrest, prolonged pretrial detention, 
lack of due process, and lengthy trial delays remained 
problems. In July, the Government announced its withdrawal from 
the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights 
after the Court determined that Peru had failed to provide due 
process in the case of four Chileans convicted by a military 
tribunal of treason. In Haiti, the judiciary remained plagued 
by understaffing, inadequate resources, and in many cases, 
corrupt and untrained judges. Judicial dockets remain clogged, 
and fair and expeditious trials are the exception rather than 
the rule. In a number of key cases, the executive branch 
continued to detain persons in defiance of release orders 
issued by judges. The 5-year-old Haitian National Police 
continues to benefit from international assistance, but it is 
grappling with problems of excessive use of force and other 
human rights abuses, including a marked increase over last year 
in the number of extrajudicial killings. Arbitrary arrest and 
detention and prolonged pretrial detention also remained 
problems.
    Several countries saw positive developments in the rule of 
law. In Israel, a September decision by the High Court of 
Justice resulted in a significant reduction in the number of 
abuses committed by members of the security forces during the 
interrogation of security prisoners. In Cambodia, the 
Government withdrew a draft NGO law that had been criticized 
for its potential to place NGO's under arbitrary and severe 
restrictions on their ability to operate.
    In Colombia, the Pastrana administration took measures to 
initiate structural reform and strengthen the rule of law. In 
July, the regional ``anonymous'' court system was abolished and 
replaced with a new specialized jurisdiction. In August, 
Congress passed a military penal reform bill that, while not 
yet implemented, is expected to correct some of the worst 
abuses in the military justice system and to be of great help 
in the fight against impunity. Thanks to the diligent efforts 
of the Prosecutor General's Human Rights Unit, a number of 
security force members were investigated, prosecuted, and 
convicted of past human rights violations. Impunity, although 
still widespread, is no longer total. Nonetheless, the civilian 
judiciary remains inefficient, overburdened by a large case 
backlog, and undermined by intimidation.

C. Developments in Labor

    1. Worker Rights. Throughout the year, the impact of 
globalization on worker rights was the subject of serious 
discussion in many international forums. The World Trade 
Organization (WTO) Ministerial in Seattle saw a transnational 
network of human rights, environmental, and labor organizations 
focus debate on public concern that workers and their families, 
particularly in developing countries, receive a fair share of 
the benefits derived from the global economy. In response, the 
United States sought to win support for a proposal calling for 
establishment of a working group in the WTO that would examine 
the relationship between trade and labor. On several occasions 
in Seattle, President Clinton strongly urged both the WTO and 
the international community to remember that free trade cannot 
come at the cost of excluding workers.
    Despite the fact that Seattle did not lead to a new round 
of negotiations, a number of positive developments did take 
place during the year. In June, member nations of the 
International Labor Organization (ILO) unanimously adopted a 
landmark convention on the prohibition and immediate 
elimination of the worst forms of child labor. By this action, 
member nations pledged to ban a number of abuses, including 
child slavery; bonded labor; work that is inherently harmful to 
the health or morals of children, such as dangerous work or 
child prostitution; and the forced or compulsory recruitment of 
children under 18 for use in armed conflict.
    President Clinton traveled to Geneva to support the 
adoption of the convention, and worked with Congress to ensure 
that the United States was one of the first countries in the 
world to sign and ratify it. In January 2000, governments again 
met in Geneva to adopt a draft optional protocol to the 
Convention on the Rights of the Child that prohibits 
governments and insurgencies from using child soldiers. It is 
expected that the protocol will be formally adopted by the 
United Nations General Assembly later this year. President 
Clinton has indicated that the United States is committed to a 
process of speedy review and signature and to working with the 
Senate to ensure ratification.
    Notwithstanding the growing international consensus in 
support of worker rights, certain governments continued to 
violate core worker rights in defiance of their obligations 
under the ILO's Declaration on the Fundamental Principles and 
Rights at Work. Trade unions continued to face harassment and 
closure, many workers continued to face discrimination, and 
bonded and forced labor remained significant problems.
    Despite the new convention, child labor remained a severe 
problem in many parts of the world. According to the ILO, more 
than 250 million children under the age of 15 work around the 
world, many in dangerous conditions. The ILO's International 
Program on the Elimination of Child Labor, to which the United 
States is by far the largest contributor, made some progress, 
but much more remains to be done.
    Another problem common to many parts of the world is the 
misuse, mistreatment, and abuse of domestic labor. In much of 
the Middle East and parts of Europe, Asia, and the Americas, 
workers who travel from developing countries to work as 
domestic servants, as well as native-born workers, must contend 
with poor working and living conditions, minimal or nonexistent 
wages, violence, and sexual assault. Although some governments 
have taken steps to minimize abuses, many domestic workers find 
they must tolerate terrible working conditions to support their 
often far-off families.
    Workers in a number of countries faced significant 
violations of their rights. In China, the Government continued 
to restrict tightly worker rights. The Communist Party controls 
the country's sole official union, and independent trade unions 
are illegal. The Government continued to detain and arrest 
independent labor activists, sentencing at least seven to terms 
ranging from 1 to 10 years. Neither the Constitution nor the 
labor law provides for the right to strike. Forced labor is a 
serious problem, particularly in penal institutions. Some 
prisons contract to perform manufacturing and assembly work, 
while others operate their own companies. A 1999 directory of 
Chinese corporations published by a foreign business-
information company listed at least two prisons as business 
enterprises. The Government also maintains a network of 
reeducation-through-labor camps, whose inmates are required to 
work. There have been reports that products made in these 
facilities are exported. Most anecdotal reports conclude that 
work conditions in prison factories are similar to those in 
other factories, but conditions on the penal system's farms and 
in mines can be very harsh.
    In Burma, the Government continued to restrict worker 
rights and ban unions. The forced use of citizens as porters by 
the army remained a common practice. Forced civilian labor 
remained widespread, although its use on major infrastructure 
projects has declined due to the use of soldiers. Child labor 
including forced child labor remained widespread. In Vietnam, 
the Government continues to restrict worker rights. Child labor 
is a problem and there were some reports of forced child labor. 
In Indonesia, enforcement of labor standards remained 
inconsistent and weak in some areas. Forced and bonded child 
labor remained a problem, particularly on fishing platforms, 
despite government efforts to reduce the problem. In Thailand, 
forced labor and illegal child labor are problems.
    In the former Soviet Union, Belarus in particular stands 
out for its repression of the rights of workers. In Russia, 
workers face long delays in receiving their wages, as do 
pensioners. Conditions of work are health and even life 
threatening in many industries. Workers do have the right to 
join unions, but plant managers frequently work with the 
Federation of Independent Trade Unions, the successor to 
Communist trade unions, to destroy new unions. Court rulings 
have further limited the right of association by ruling that 
collective action based on nonpayment of wages is not a strike 
and that individuals who participate in such actions are not 
protected by the law. The Labor Code prohibits forced or 
compulsory labor, but there were credible reports of soldiers 
being ``sold'' by their superior officers to perform work for 
private citizens or organizations.
    In Guatemala, poverty, the legacy of violent repression of 
labor activists and others, the deep hostility of many in 
business and the military towards trade unions, and a weak 
labor inspection and labor court system continued to constrain 
worker rights and limit enforcement of standards. In one case 
in which vigilantes abducted union leaders, physically abused 
them, and forced them to resign from their jobs and union 
positions, none of the vigilantes has been arrested, although 
more than a dozen suspects have been indicted on charges 
ranging from coercion to illegal detention. While the 
Constitution bars employment of minors under the age of 14, 
child labor remains a serious problem. Most child labor occurs 
in agriculture, domestic service, construction, stone 
quarrying, and family businesses. According to the Guatemalan 
Labor Ministry, 3,000 to 5,000 children are employed in the 
illegal cottage fireworks industry. This dangerous employment 
violates ILO Convention 182 banning the worst forms of child 
labor.
    In Colombia, the Government, under strong international 
pressure, bowed to the demands of its unions, agreeing to the 
dispatch of a special ILO team to investigate killing and 
kidnaping of trade unionists and other worker rights 
violations. Physical intimidation of trade unionists, including 
killings, remains a very serious problem.
    In India, the use of forced and bonded adult and child 
labor, though illegal, continues. While programs sponsored by 
the ILO and private groups have moved many children from, for 
example, carpet looms to classrooms, enforcement of child and 
bonded labor laws is spotty. Dalits and tribals, who constitute 
the majority of India's bonded labor, continue to face 
widespread discrimination. In Pakistan, child and bonded labor 
remains a serious problem. Thousands of families work in debt 
bondage, with children born into a life of bonded labor. While 
the Government has worked with the ILO to move children from 
work to school in several industries, enforcement of the laws 
against bonded and child labor has been inadequate. In 
Bangladesh, the Government failed to keep promises it had made 
to the international community with regard to worker rights, 
notably affording workers freedom of association and the right 
to organize in export processing zones. However, the Government 
hasworked constructively with the ILO on a program to reduce 
child labor.
    2. Trafficking of Persons. Trafficking in persons is a 
growing global problem that touches countries on every 
continent. The insidious reach of this modern-day form of 
slavery hurts women, children, and men from all walks of life, 
and of every age, religion, and culture. Traffickers rob their 
victims of basic human rights. They exploit and trade in human 
hopes and dreams to profit from inhuman suffering and misery. 
Victims are treated as chattel to be bought and sold across 
international and within national borders. This human tragedy 
rips the fabric of communities and tears families apart.
    The trafficking industry is one of the fastest growing and 
most lucrative criminal enterprises in the world. Profits are 
enormous, generating billions of dollars annually and feeding 
into criminal syndicates' involvement in other illicit and 
violent activities. Trafficking in persons is considered the 
third largest source of profits for organized crime, behind 
only drugs and guns.
    Trafficking cases appear in many forms. In some cases, 
traffickers move victims through transit countries using drugs, 
violence, and threats to ensure cooperation. In other cases, 
economically desperate parents sell their child to traffickers. 
Many times, trafficked victims begin their journey voluntarily 
and unwittingly fall into the hands of trafficking schemes.
    In Russia and the Ukraine, for example, victims who yearn 
for economic independence within economies that offer few jobs, 
are lured by advertisements promising well-paying jobs abroad. 
However, once victims arrive in countries of destination, they 
are held captive and forced into bonded labor, domestic 
servitude or the commercial sex industry through threats, 
psychological coercion and severe physical brutality, including 
rape, torture, starvation, imprisonment, and death.
    The majority of trafficking victims are girls and women. 
The reasons for this are linked to the economic and social 
status of women in many countries. Not all victims are women, 
however. Boys are frequently trafficked for prostitution, 
pornography, and in at least one country, used as camel 
jockeys. Men from a number of countries such as China are 
trafficked overseas to work in restaurants or in sweatshops in 
the garment industry. They travel to their destinations in 
rickety boats or cargo containers before becoming indentured 
servants to pay their ``debts.'' If they try to leave 
employment, they risk violence or the extortion of their family 
members back home.
    The underground nature of trafficking makes it difficult to 
quantify. The most reliable estimates place the level of 
trafficking at 1 to 2 million persons trafficked annually. As 
this report documents, trafficking into the commercial sex 
industry is merely one form of a broader range of trafficking 
exploited by organized criminal enterprises.
    The problem is particularly widespread in South Asia. India 
and Pakistan are significant countries of origin, transit, and 
destination. Poor economic conditions in Nepal, Bangladesh, and 
rural areas of India result in women and children being 
trafficked into major cities for the sex trade and forced 
labor. In many cases, girls from poverty-stricken families are 
sold to traffickers by parents or relatives. Women who seek to 
return home often face stigmatization. Many are HIV positive. 
While criminal laws against trafficking exist, inadequate 
enforcement and lax penalties do little to stem trafficking 
patterns.
    In East Asia, many women are coerced into prostitution 
under the guise of overseas employment contracts. In Thailand, 
women from hill tribes and neighboring countries are especially 
vulnerable to exploitation because of their inability to speak 
Thai. In Burma, women and children in border areas and from the 
Shan ethnic minority are particularly susceptible to being 
forced by traffickers into neighboring countries to work as 
prostitutes. In the Philippines, some women are lured into 
entering employment contracts overseas by unethical recruiters. 
Once they arrive at their destination, the women are subjected 
to work in the sex entertainment industry or suffer abuse at 
the hands of foreign employers or husbands.
    The range and scope of trafficking in Africa remains 
largely undocumented. Officials in Europe, however, report an 
active and growing market from trafficking in women and 
children from Nigeria. There is evidence that Nigerian crime 
syndicates may use threats, physical injury, and legal coercion 
to stop women forced into the sex trade from escaping. Inside 
Nigeria, there is an active trade in child laborers, some 
exported to neighboring countries, from the Niger Delta region.
    Trafficking also exists in the Western Hemisphere. Forced 
prostitution is also a problem in the Dominican Republic, where 
there are disparities in law enforcement. In Brazil, the sexual 
exploitation and prostitution of children is a serious problem. 
Prostitution rings foster a sexual tourism industry that 
exports children from the Amazon region to large urban centers 
and major cities.

                            III. Conclusion

    The events of the past year have demonstrated the 
undisputed and growing power of transnational public-private 
networks in promoting democracy, human rights, and labor. 
Traditionally, ``norm entrepreneurs'' have been individuals 
whose role in society or government has given them the ability 
to influence the direction of policy. Oscar Arias Sanchez, 
former President Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, 
Vaclav Havel, Pope John Paul II, Martin Luther King, Nelson 
Mandela, and Eleanor Roosevelt are but a few of the human 
rights advocates who instantly come to mind. Such individuals 
still have an important role to play, but increasingly, public 
and private networks of transnational actors are becoming 
``norm entrepreneurs'' in and of themselves--networks capable 
of mobilizing popular opinion and political support at the 
national and international level in order to secure 
international recognition and acceptance of new principles, 
standards, or approaches to complex human rights problems.
    These transnational networks increasingly wield influence 
comparable to the power of individual nation-states, in their 
capacity to spotlight abuses, mobilize shame, generate 
political pressure, and develop structural solutions. But 
recent history also teaches that such networks cannot succeed 
without involving democratic governments dedicated to the same 
human rights goals. As President Clinton noted in Davos 
recently, all sides need to ``lower the rhetoric and focus on 
results.'' No transnational network can firmly or permanently 
entrench human rights, democracy, or the rule of law in 
unfamiliar soil without forging partnerships with democratic 
governments and other domestic and international members of the 
emerging human rights community. These partnerships, which 
cross public and private, institutional and national lines, 
will be increasingly challenged to work together and prod one 
another to yield creative and enduring solutions to emerging 
problems. As this new century unfolds, the United States will 
continue to be a leader in creating and partnering with such 
transnational networks to seek democracy and human rights for 
all the world's peoples.
                                 Harold Hongju Koh,
                              Assistant Secretary of State,
                      Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
                                 EUROPE

                              ----------                              


                                ALBANIA

    Albania is a republic with a multiparty parliament, a prime 
minister, and a president elected by the Parliament. The Prime Minister 
heads the Government; the presidency is a largely ceremonial position 
with limited executive power. The Socialist Party and its allies won 
121 of 155 parliamentary seats in 1997 elections held after a 5-month 
period of chaos and anarchy. Observers deemed the elections to be 
acceptable and satisfactory under the circumstances. The largest 
opposition group, the Democratic Party, ended its 10-month long boycott 
of the Parliament (its second such boycott in 2 years based on charges 
of unfair practices by the ruling Socialists and their coalition 
partners) in July. Socialist Pandeli Majko served as Prime Minister 
until October. After losing the October electoral contest for 
chairmanship of the Socialist Party, Majko resigned, and the Party 
chose Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta to replace him; Meta took office 
in October. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; 
however, continued political instability, limited resources, political 
pressure, and endemic corruption weaken the judiciary's ability to 
function independently and efficiently.
    Local police units that report to the Minister of Public Order are 
principally responsible for internal security. One of the most serious 
problems involving public order and internal security is the fact that 
police officers are largely untrained and often unreliable. The 
international community established training programs to improve the 
quality of the police forces; the programs have trained a large number 
of police officers. The Ministry also has a small force of well-trained 
and effective police officers organized into special duty units. During 
the year the Government reestablished law and order in areas of the 
country that had been almost totally beyond central government control 
since 1997. Police waged major operations in the districts of Tropoja, 
Vlora, Shkoder, Burrel, Fier, and Gjirokaster, where criminal gangs 
were active. The Ministry claims that it broke up at least 32 criminal 
gangs. Serious problems in the area of policing remain nonetheless. The 
police are affected by, and are sometimes part of, the country's 
endemic corruption. The National Intelligence Service (ShIK) is 
responsible for both internal and external intelligence gathering and 
counterintelligence. The armed forces did not have a role in domestic 
security until 1998, when a special 120-man ``commando'' unit was 
authorized. The new unit operates in an antiterrorist role under the 
Minister of Defense. During times of domestic crisis, the Minister of 
Public Order can request command authority over the unit. The police 
committed human rights abuses.
    Albania is a poor country in transition from central economic 
planning to a free market system, and many issues related to 
privatization, ownership claims, and appropriate regulation of business 
are not yet resolved. The country experienced slow but stable progress 
in its recovery efforts from the collapse of 1997 and turmoil of 1998. 
The inflation rate dropped from about 10 percent during 1998 to close 
to zero in 1999. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by about 8 percent. 
The official unemployment rate was 18 percent, a slight increase from 
the 17 percent of the previous year. With two-thirds of all workers 
employed in agriculture--mostly at the subsistence level--remittances 
from citizens working abroad are extremely important, as is foreign 
assistance. The GDP may be underestimated because considerable income 
also is thought to be derived from various organized and semiorganized 
criminal activities. A variety of other unreported, noncriminal 
activities, such as unlicensed small businesses, along with the 
Government's inability to collect fully accurate statistics, also 
contribute to the GDP's underestimation.
    There continued to be problems in the Government's human rights 
record in several areas; however, there were some improvements in a few 
areas. The opposition Democratic Party continued to allege that the 
Government was responsible for the murders of some of its members 
during 1998 and made additional allegations regarding alleged murders 
during 1999. The police beat and otherwise abused suspects and 
prisoners, and there were deaths in custody. The Democratic Party often 
legitimately complained about incidents of police harassment of its 
members and of the dismissal of some of its members from official 
positions for political reasons. The police at times arbitrarily 
arrested and detained persons. Prolonged pretrial detention is a 
problem. The judiciary is inefficient and subject to corruption and 
executive pressure. There were complaints of unqualified and 
unprofessional judges and credible accounts of judges who were 
intimidated or bribed by powerful criminals. The Government often 
infringed on citizens' privacy rights. Government respect for freedom 
of speech and of the press improved; however, police at times beat 
journalists, and academic freedom was constrained. These improvements 
were largely offset by the Government's continued passive approach to 
basic law enforcement: in too many instances crime, corruption, and 
vigilantism undermined the Government's efforts to restore civil order. 
The country hosted nearly 450,000 refugees from neighboring Kosovo 
during the violent conflict and NATO military action in that province. 
Violence and discrimination against women, trafficking in women and 
children, and child abuse were significant problems. Discrimination and 
violence against religious and ethnic minorities, particularly against 
Roma, remained problems. The Government took some steps to improve the 
treatment of ethnic minorities. Child labor is a problem. Vigilante 
action resulted in many killings.
                        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 cases of political killings by the Government, despite 
repeated claims by the main opposition party that its members were 
harassed, beaten, and sometimes murdered by government agents. The 
Democratic Party claimed that over 21 members, supporters, local 
government officials, and former national party officials were killed 
during the 2 years that the Socialists were in power (1997-99). The 
Party claimed that at least three of its members were killed during 
1998: The chairman of the local branch of the Democratic Party of Kish-
Arra village of Shkoder, the deputy chairman of the polling station in 
the Gjinar commune of the Elbasan district, and the chairman of the 
Democratic Party branch of Boric village in Malesia e Madhe. The 
Democratic Party accused the Government of failing to investigate these 
crimes, noting that no suspects were tried for the murders. The 
Democrats asked for the creation of an independent investigatory group 
that would oversee the investigation of these crimes (which the Party 
considers to be political).
    Police committed extrajudicial killings. In January a 19-year-old 
man from Elbasan, Kastriot Bega, was arrested by police on charges of 
murder. He was taken first to the police station and later to the 
hospital, which he reached in critical condition, and died soon 
thereafter. The police claimed that he died a natural death, but the 
hospital staff said that his body bore multiple marks from beating and 
mistreatment. In December Bardhyl Balliu, a Kavaje citizen, was 
detained by the Tirana police force; he died in police custody while 
awaiting trial.
    The country continued to experience high levels of violent crime. 
When Minister of Public Order Spartak Poci took office in May, he 
estimated that overall crime had increased by 20 percent compared with 
the previous year; violent crime rose by 28 percent, and murder by 16 
percent. The press reported in June that the house of the Prefect of 
Shkodra was blown up; he was not at home at the time.
    Ministry of Public Order statistics show that 432 murders took 
place throughout the country during the year; 62 of them were in 
Tirana. The February 21 murder of a prominent lawyer, Kleanthi Koci, 
who was chairman of the Association of Defense Attorneys, led to a 
large public demonstration at his funeral against crime, which was an 
expression of public frustration with the lack of order and security in 
the country. On June 10, near Bajram Curri, two employees of the 
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were killed; 
their official vehicle was ambushed by gunmen along a rural road. The 
OSCE closed its office in Bajram Curri following the incident.
    Shelling across the border by Serbian military forces killed 
several persons. For example in April Serbian artillery fire killed 2 
persons and wounded 12 others in the towns of Tropoja and Padesh. Two 
persons were killed in May in the small border village of Cahani.
    Many killings occurred throughout the country as the result of 
individual or clan vigilante actions sometimes connected to traditional 
``blood feuds,'' or in conflicts involving various criminal gangs.
    b. Disappearance.--There were no confirmed reports of politically 
motivated disappearances.
    c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment.--The Constitution stipulates that ``no one can be subject 
to torture, or cruel and brutal treatment;'' however, the police often 
beat suspects in the process of arresting them, and the Albanian 
Helsinki Committee reported that the police beat or otherwise 
mistreated prisoners. The Penal Code makes the use of torture a crime 
punishable by up to 10 years' imprisonment. According to the Albanian 
Helsinki Committee, major police stations were the sites of the worst 
abuse of detainees, and all stations were overcrowded. There were at 
least two deaths of suspects in police custody (see Section 1.a.).
    There were a number of reports of police violence. The Socialist 
Party newspaper Zeri i Popullit on June 1 described a violent raid in 
May by the police in the village of Spotalte in Lushnje. Ministry of 
Interior special forces reportedly were looking for a criminal, but 
when they failed to find him they brutally mistreated members of the 
community; police beat persons and made unauthorized searches of 
houses. They allegedly arrested two villagers and stole money from 
local residents. The press reported a similar incident in the town of 
Cerrik, where dozens of persons voiced their protest against police 
violence, which also apparently was directed at the community due to 
its alleged ties to organized criminal gangs.
    According to the Democratic Party, Besnik Jaku, the leader of the 
Tirana University student hunger strike was beaten in police custody in 
December 1998. In April Besim Biberaj suffered multiple broken bones 
while illegally detained for 3 days at a Tirana police station.
    Police at times beat journalists (see Section 2.a.).
    The majority of police officers receive little or no training. 
Western governments continued police training programs aimed at 
improving technical expertise, operational procedures, and respect for 
human rights. These training and education programs began to improve 
the level of professionalism of the police, but the overall performance 
of law enforcement remained weak.
    Police corruption remains widespread. Sources in the Ministry of 
Interior stated that more than 491 police officers were fired from 
their jobs during the year because of incompetence, lack of discipline, 
or violations of the law.
    Prison conditions remained poor, although they improved during the 
year with the construction of new prisons and the repair of old ones. 
While the Government financed much of this work, it has also received 
international assistance, particularly from European Union (EU) 
countries. All prisons were destroyed or severely damaged in 1997 when 
armed groups stormed them and released the prisoners. The Government 
reopened 8 prisons (housing over 1,000 inmates), but the existing 
facilities are inadequate to house properly all current prisoners. 
Overcrowding created very difficult living conditions.
    In previous years, as a result of the overcrowding in prisons, 
juvenile and adult inmates shared cells. The Government took steps 
during the year to separate them. The Ministry of Justice ordered the 
construction of a new facility for juvenile inmates in Kruje and sought 
foreign assistance to complete this project. The opening of the new 
prison in Lezhe (with a capacity of 800 inmates) is expected to help 
reduce overcrowding and facilitate the process of repatriating Albanian 
prisoners from foreign prisons, mainly from Greece and Italy. (More 
than 2,000 Albanians are serving sentences in Greek prisons, and over 
1,500 others are serving sentences in Italian prisons.) By year's end 
the prison's construction was more than 70 percent completed; its 
completion date was unknown. In 1998 the first five inmates were 
transferred from Greek prisons to Albanian prisons. Another 35 requests 
for transfers were filed with the Greek Ministry of Justice. Family 
visitation is allowed.
    The Government has cooperated with the International Committee of 
the Red Cross and with other nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) and 
has improved access for prison inspections.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--Police at times 
arbitrarily arrested and detained persons. The 1995 Penal Procedures 
Code sets out the rights of detained and arrested persons. By law a 
police officer or prosecutor may order a suspect into custody. Detained 
persons must be informed immediately of the charges against them and of 
their rights. A prosecutor must be notified immediately after a suspect 
is detained by the police. Within 48 hours of the arrest or detention a 
court must decide, in the presence of the prosecutor, the suspect, and 
the suspect's lawyer, the type of detention to be imposed. Legal 
counsel must be provided free of charge if the defendant cannot afford 
a private attorney.
    Bail in the form of money or property may be required if the judge 
believes that the accused otherwise may not appear for trial. 
Alternatively a suspect may be placed under house arrest. The court may 
order pretrial confinement in cases where there is reason to believe 
that the accused may leave the country or is a danger to society.
    The Penal Procedures Code requires completion of pretrial 
investigations within 3 months. The prosecutor may extend this period 
by 3-month intervals in especially difficult cases. The accused and the 
injured party have the right to appeal these extensions to the district 
court. In practice lengthy pretrial detention is a problem. Delayed 
investigations are also a serious problem, and the cases of many 
detained persons exceed the time limits set by law. In September a 
Democratic Party paper alleged that three persons from the northern 
city of Kukes were held in police custody for more than 16 months 
without trial.
    The Democratic Party claimed that the Government detained and sent 
to prison dozens of its supporters during the year. Some of them were 
victims of cruel and inhuman treatment (see Section 1.c.).
    There were no clear cases of detainees being held for strictly 
political reasons, but several notable arrests appeared to be motivated 
by politics as well as by law enforcement interests. In September 1998, 
the police arrested a number of persons associated with the Democratic 
Party who participated in the events of September 14, 1998, and 
prosecutors charged them with taking part in an ``armed rebellion'' and 
in ``a failed coup d'etat'' (also see Section 1.e.). The Democratic 
Party complained that the arrests were purely political, which is a 
claim highlighted by the presence of the chairman of the Monarchist 
Legality Party, the third largest political party in the country, among 
the arrestees. The case had not come to trial by year's end.
    The Government does not use forced exile.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--The Constitution provides for an 
independent judiciary; however, continued political instability, 
limited resources, political pressure, and endemic corruption all 
weaken the judiciary's ability to function independently and 
efficiently. Corruption remains a serious problem, especially with the 
growth of organized crime, and judges are subjected both to bribery 
attempts and intimidation.
    Many court buildings were destroyed in the civil unrest in 1997, 
and although all reopened, important records and legal materials were 
lost permanently. Long case backlogs are typical. The removal of court 
budgets from the control of the Ministry of Justice to a separate, 
independent body, the Judicial Budget Office, and the establishment of 
a school for magistrates were useful steps towards strengthening the 
independence of the judiciary. A board chaired by the Chief Justice of 
the Supreme Court runs the Judicial Budget Office. All other board 
members are judges.
    The judicial system comprises district courts of the first 
instance, military courts, six courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court. 
There is also a separate and independent Constitutional Court. The 
Supreme Court hears appeals from the Courts of Appeal, while the 
Constitutional Court reviews those cases requiring constitutional 
interpretation.
    The President heads the High Council of Justice, which has 
authority to appoint, discipline, and dismiss judges of the courts of 
first instance and of the courts of appeal. Judges who are dismissed 
have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court. In addition to the 
President, the Council consists of the Minister of Justice, the head of 
the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General, three judges (chosen by 
sitting judges), two prosecutors (selected by the prosecutors), and 
four independent lawyers named by the Parliament.
    The President of the Republic nominates the President and Vice 
President of the Supreme Court, and the Parliament elects all of the 
Supreme Court's justices. The President selects four of the nine 
members of the Constitutional Court; five are elected by the 
Parliament. Parliament has the authority to approve and dismiss the 
judges of the Constitutional Court and the members of the Supreme 
Court. According to the law, dismissal only may be ordered after 
conviction for a serious crime or for mental incompetence. In May the 
Chief Judge of the Supreme Court was dismissed 3 years before the 
expiration of his mandate. The Parliament judged that the mandate of 
the Chief Judge had ended because of the entry into force of the new 
Constitution; the Chief Judge claimed that the term of his mandate had 
not ended and that he had 3 more years to serve. He filed charges with 
the Constitutional Court against the decision of the President and the 
Parliament. The Constitutional Court found the decision to be in 
accordance with the law and approved the removal. He then took his case 
to the European Court of Human Rights. The opposition criticized his 
removal and claimed that it was anticonstitutional and illegal. In 1998 
three other judges were nominated to be members of the Supreme Court 
without the prior experience required under the Constitution. These 
judicial candidates openly maintain ties to the ruling party.
    Constitutional Court justices in theory serve maximum 9-year terms, 
with three justices rotating every 3 years. Justices of the Supreme 
Court serve for 7 years.
    Under the 1998 Constitution, the President appoints the prosecutor 
general with the consent of the Parliament. The President appoints and 
dismisses other prosecutors on the recommendation of the prosecutor 
general.
    Parliament approves the courts' budgets and allocates the funds. 
Each court may determine how it wishes to spend the money allocated to 
it. The Justice Ministry provides and approves administrative 
personnel.
    Courts operate with very limited material resources. As a result, 
in many instances the court system was unable to process cases in a 
timely fashion. Public opinion holds the judiciary, in particular, 
responsible for government failure to stop criminal activity. In July 
police forces in Shkoder, the country's third largest city, blocked the 
main entrance of the District Court and did not allow officers of the 
court to enter the building as a sign of protest following the court's 
release of suspected criminals who were detained by the police. The 
judge and prosecutors argued that this protest constituted intimidation 
and violated the court's independence. The situation was defused 
relatively quickly and without complications, but it brought to light 
the serious problems that the judicial system faces. A tense atmosphere 
exists between the police and the judiciary. Each side cites the 
failures of the other as the reason that many criminals avoid 
imprisonment. The courts accuse the police of failing to provide the 
solid investigation and evidence necessary to prosecute successfully, 
and the police allege that corruption and bribery taint the courts.
    The Constitution provides that all citizens enjoy the right to a 
fair, speedy, and public trial, except in cases where the necessities 
of public order, national security, or the interests of minors or other 
private parties require restrictions. Defendants, witnesses, and others 
who do not speak Albanian are entitled to the services of a translator. 
If convicted, the accused has the right to appeal the decision within 5 
days to the Court of Appeals.
    The Democratic Party also asserted that the chairman of the 
Legality Party (the Monarchists), Ekrem Spahia, and 12 members and 
supporters of this party are being tried unfairly for participation in 
the events of September 14, 1998, which followed the murder of the 
Democratic Party parliamentarian, Azem Hajdari, by unknown persons. The 
Democrats believe that all these individuals are being imprisoned for 
political reasons.
    Fatos Nano, the former Prime Minister, was acquitted of charges of 
corruption and abuse of power by a Tirana court on October 5. A court 
spokesman said that the court decided that a 12-year sentence given to 
him 5 years ago was ``not based on facts.''
    Local human rights groups and the political opposition complained 
about procedural violations in the legal case against six former 
government officials, including the former Ministers of Defense and the 
Interior, who were charged in August 1998 with crimes against humanity 
for their role in suppressing the popular uprisings in 1997. In 
February the Government released them from house arrest but still had 
not tried them by year's end.
    On March 22, a Tirana court ordered that Vlora gang leader Zani 
Caushi be released from jail. Observers suggested that Caushi's friends 
in Vlora intimidated some of the witnesses in his case, while the 
opposition press accused the Socialist Party of having links to Caushi 
and therefore seeking to ensure his release. Seven other members of 
Caushi's gang received prison terms of between 3 and 15 years for 
crimes ranging from armed robbery to kidnaping.
    There were no reports of political prisoners.
    f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--The Law on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms 
provides for the inviolability of the individual person, of dwellings, 
and of the privacy of correspondence; however, the Government often 
infringed on these rights. Police often conduct searches without first 
obtaining warrants. The Democratic Party claimed that in August the 
police surrounded the house of a Democratic Party Member of Parliament, 
Myslim Murrizi, and later broke into his house and terrorized his 
family. The police confiscated two properly licensed hunting guns owned 
by the family. In February DP opposition leader Sali Berisha reported 
that a court ordered that his telephone be wiretapped. Justice Minister 
Thimio Kondi said that wiretapping is legal and denied that the 
authorities had political motives for wiretapping Berisha's telephone.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
    a. Freedom of Speech and Press.--The Law on Fundamental Human 
Rights and Freedoms provides for freedom of speech and of the press, 
and the Government generally respected these rights; however, police at 
times beat journalists. The media are active and unrestrained but have 
developed little sense of journalistic responsibility or professional 
integrity. Sensationalism is the norm in the newspapers, and the 
political party-oriented newspapers in particular print gossip, 
unsubstantiated accusations, and outright fabrications. Some 
publications appear to be making efforts to improve professional 
standards and to provide more balanced and accurate reporting.
    Political parties, trade unions, and various societies and groups 
publish their own newspapers or magazines, and competition with 
commercial publications is very keen. An estimated 200 publications are 
available, including daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, 
newsletters, and pamphlets. Five newspapers and two magazines are 
published in Greek in the south. A difficult economic situation, 
coupled with readers' distrust of the press, resulted in a significant 
drop in newspaper sales during the year. The total daily circulation of 
all newspapers dropped from about 75,000 copies to less than 65,000 
copies. This came after a drop in 1998 from 85,000 to 75,000 copies. 
Newspaper and magazine publishers considered 1999 a very bad year for 
circulation and readership. The opening of many new private radio and 
television stations, as well as an increase in the price of newspapers 
and magazines, are the main reasons for this sharp fall in circulation.
    In May state-run radio and television was converted into a public 
entity. Its outlets provide the most widespread and universally 
accessible domestic programming. This entity no longer is financed by 
the State and has no direct connection to the Government. Rather, it is 
run by the Leading Council of Radio and Television, a body elected by 
the Parliament.
    Fifty private television channels and 30 private radio channels 
operate, unregulated, all over the country. The wide availability of 
satellite dishes provides citizens with easy access to international 
programming. The Government established new licensing procedures during 
the year to promote a more stable broadcasting environment. The 
Parliament created the National Council of Radio and Television, which 
is responsible for issuing private radio and television licenses. The 
Council consists of seven members: Three members appointed by the 
ruling parties, three members from the opposition parties, and one 
member appointed by the President. The chairman serves a 6-year term 
while other council members are elected to 5-year terms. As of 
September, the opposition had not yet proposed its members for both 
councils. The licensing of private radio and television stations had 
not yet begun by year's end.
    Attacks on journalists continued--both beatings by the police and 
assaults by unknown assailants. According to human rights NGO's, in 
July police officers in Elbasan mistreated two journalists of the 
independent Koha Jone. In September two persons attacked and maltreated 
a Koha Jone journalist in Vlore. In September the independent press 
accused the Tirana chief of police of violence against a cameraman from 
a private television channel who was filming a murder victim downtown. 
The cameraman allegedly was beaten by the police on orders of the chief 
of police who was present at the scene. Unidentified gunmen seriously 
injured journalist Vjollca Karanxha while she was filming in Pogradec 
on November 22. Karanxha is a reporter for the local radio and 
television station and often has written about the role of local 
officials in smuggling and corruption.
    Academic freedom continues to be limited. University professors 
complain that some faculty members are hired or fired for political 
reasons and that students who have the right political connections get 
preferential treatment regardless of their personal qualifications. The 
Government maintains that changes in university staffing are made on 
the basis of merit. The Tirana University hunger strike, begun in 
December of 1998 to protest the Government's indifference towards the 
poor living conditions at the university, ended after 2 weeks.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The Law on 
Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms provides for the right of 
peaceful assembly, and the Government generally respected this right in 
practice. According to the law, organizers must obtain permits for 
gatherings in public places, which the police may refuse to issue for 
reasons such as security and traffic. In practice rallies and 
demonstrations were very common. The Government made no concerted 
efforts to prevent them, and the police generally maintained order with 
due respect for citizens' rights; however, in some cases individuals 
claimed that the police or secret agents of the ShIK intimidated them 
because of their participation in opposition rallies, while others 
claimed that they were fired from their jobs because they participated 
in opposition rallies.
    The Law on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms provides for the 
right of association, and the Government generally respected this right 
in practice. A political party must apply to the Ministry of Justice 
for official certification. It must declare an aim or purpose that is 
not anticonstitutional or otherwise contrary to law, describe its 
organizational structure, and account for all public and private funds 
it receives.
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution provides for freedom of 
religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. According 
to the 1998 Constitution, there is no official religion, and all 
religions are equal. However, the predominant religious communities 
(Muslim, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic) enjoy de facto recognition by 
the authorities that gives them the legal right to hold bank accounts, 
to own property and buildings, and to function as juridical persons 
based on their historical presence in the country. Religious 
movements--with the exception of the three de facto recognized 
religions--can acquire the official status of a juridical person only 
by registering under the Law on Associations, which recognizes the 
status of a nonprofit association irrespective of whether the 
organization has a cultural, recreational, religious, or humanitarian 
character.
    The majority of citizens are secular in orientation after decades 
of rigidly enforced atheism. Muslims, who make up the largest 
traditional religious group, adhere to a moderate form of Sunni Islam. 
The Albanian Autocephalous Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches are the 
other large denominations. The Albanian Orthodox Church split from the 
Greek Orthodox Church early in the century, and adherents strongly 
identify with the national church as distinct from the Greek Church. 
The current archbishop is a Greek citizen, even though the Albanian 
Orthodox Church's 1929 statute states that all its archbishops must be 
of Albanian heritage, because there are no Albanian clerics qualified 
for this position. Bektashis, (Muslim believers who adhere to a very 
loose form of Islam), form another large denomination in the country.
    Foreign clergy, including Muslim clerics, Christian and Baha'i 
missionaries, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and many others freely 
carry out religious activities. The Religious Council of the State 
Secretariat, an office that functions under the Prime Minister's 
authority but that has no clear mandate or decisionmaking power, was 
renamed ``The State Committee on Cults'' in September. The Committee 
chairman is to have the status of a deputy minister, and this office is 
to coordinate all issues connected with religion and the State. This 
office estimates that there are 12 different Muslim societies and 
groups with approximately 324 representatives throughout the country 
and more than 79 Christian societies and sects with 344 missionaries 
representing Christian or Baha'i organizations.
    The Government has not yet returned all the properties and 
religious objects under its control that were confiscated under the 
Communist regime in 1967. In cases where religious buildings were 
returned, the Government often failed to return the land that surrounds 
the buildings. The Government also is unable to compensate the churches 
adequately for the extensive damage that many religious properties 
suffered. The Orthodox Church has complained that it has had difficulty 
in recovering some religious icons for restoration and safekeeping.
    The Albanian Evangelical Alliance, an association of Protestant 
Churches, has complained that it has encountered administrative 
obstacles to building churches and to accessing the media. The growing 
evangelical community continues to seek official recognition and 
participation in the religious affairs section of the Council of 
Ministers.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--The Law on Fundamental Human Rights and 
Freedoms provides for freedom of movement within the country and for 
freedom to leave the country and return, and the Government respects 
these rights in practice.
    A pressing problem that arose as a result of uncontrolled internal 
migration is the problem of local registration and status. A survey 
conducted by an NGO, The Society for Democratic Culture, from April to 
August highlighted the fact that many families (the numbers vary from 
hundreds to thousands) moved from the poor northeast to more prosperous 
zones and are no longer registered at all. The survey conducted covered 
three pilot zones: An area near Durres with 15,000 inhabitants, an area 
in the Vlore district with 12,000 inhabitants, and a Tirana area with 
over 20,000 inhabitants. The survey found that during election 
campaigns, these citizens are registered as inhabitants of these zones 
and thus are permitted to vote; however, in the period between 
elections, these citizens are not considered inhabitants of these zones 
and are denied even basic education. In many educational institutions, 
students must have, among other documents, an official document from 
the district that acknowledges that they are inhabitants of the 
district. The lack of such documents prevents many students from these 
areas from attending school.
    Citizens who fled the country during or after the Communist regime 
are welcomed back, and if they lost their citizenship they may have it 
restored. Albanian-born citizens who emigrate may hold dual 
citizenship.
    The Constitution gives foreigners the right of refuge in the 
country, and a 1996 asylum law includes provisions for granting refugee 
or asylee status. The Government accepts the entrance of refugees, does 
not expel those with valid claims to refugee status, and works with the 
international community to provide housing and support for them. It 
also provides first asylum. Over 450,000 Kosovar Albanians were 
afforded refuge during the Kosovo crisis, finding shelter with extended 
family or in facilities operated by the U.N. High Commissioner for 
Refugees (UNHCR) or other international entities. The Government 
cooperated with the UNHCR and others to provide support to the 
refugees.
    Organized criminal gangs have made the smuggling of illegal 
immigrants--Albanians, Kurds, Pakistanis, Chinese, Turks, and others 
from the Middle East and Asia--into a lucrative business. Italy is the 
most common destination. The Government claims that it has taken steps 
to combat the problem, but that a lack of resources hinders its 
efforts. Italian military and border patrol squads operate in various 
coastal zones in an effort to stop the flow of illegal immigrants. 
Individuals who become stranded in Albania while trying to use this 
illegal pipeline are eligible for a ``care and maintenance'' program 
run by the UNHCR and the Albanian Red Cross and can have their cases 
evaluated by UNHCR officials. There were no reports of the forced 
return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to 
        Change Their Government
    The Constitution states that ``Governance is based on a system of 
elections that are free, equal, general, and periodic;'' citizens 
elected a government in 1997 in what international observers considered 
to be a satisfactory process, given the proceeding months of chaos and 
anarchy.
    The main opposition group, the Democratic Party, boycotted the 
Parliament throughout most of the year, refusing to participate in 
virtually all government functions at the national level. Top DP 
officials, including former president Sali Berisha, refused to testify 
in the investigation into the September 1998 killing of DP 
parliamentarian Azem Hajdari, stating that the investigation was 
politically motivated. The DP, led by Berisha, returned to the 
Parliament in July after the Government committed itself to investigate 
Hajdari's murder fully and fairly.
    The Constitution prohibits the formation of any party or 
organization that is totalitarian; incites and supports racial, 
religious, or ethnic hatred; uses violence to take power or influence 
state policies; or is nontransparent or secretive in character.
    No legal impediments hinder the full participation of women and 
minorities in government, and the major political parties have women's 
organizations and have women serving on their central committees; 
however, women continue to be underrepresented in both politics and 
government. In the Parliament 10 of 155 members are women (1 of whom 
serves as deputy prime minister). In the current government three 
ministers are women. Ethnic Greeks constitute the largest minority. 
They are represented in the current Government and participate actively 
in various political parties.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    The Government generally permitted human rights and related 
organizations to function freely, although the lawlessness in some 
areas of the country severely limited the practical access of some of 
these organizations. The Albanian Helsinki Committee, the Albanian 
Human Rights Group, the Albanian Human Rights Documentation Center, the 
Society for Democratic Culture, the Albanian Institute for Contemporary 
Studies, and the Women's Center were among the most active domestic 
NGO's involved in human rights activities. Despite the assistance of 
international donors, the work of all of these organizations is 
hampered by a shortage of funds and equipment; the Government 
cooperated only minimally with these local groups.
    In February the Parliament ratified a new law to create the 
country's first national human rights ombudsman; however, no one had 
been appointed to the post by year's end.
    A wide variety of international human rights NGO's visit or operate 
within the country with the cooperation of the Government and generally 
without restriction. These organizations are free to publish and 
disseminate their findings, including criticisms of the Government. The 
Government also cooperates with the United Nations and other 
international entities on human rights issues. During the Kosovo 
conflict and the influx of refugees into Albania, the number of NGO's 
active in Albania increased several fold. The Government played a key 
role in facilitating and coordinating their work.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language, or Social Status
    The Law on Major Constitutional Provisions prohibits discrimination 
based on sex, race, ethnicity, language, or religion. However, women 
and some minority groups complain that discrimination continues in 
practice.
    Women.--Violence against women and spousal abuse still occur in 
this traditionally male-dominated society. Cultural acceptance and lax 
police response result in most abuse going unreported. No government-
sponsored program protects the rights of women. An NGO maintains a 
shelter in Tirana for abused women, but the facility has the capacity 
to house only a few victims at a time. The same NGO also operates a hot 
line that women and girls can call for advice and counseling. The line 
received thousands of calls during the year. The UNHCR reported some 
cases of rape and sexual assault of Kosovar Albanian women in refugee 
camps. The concepts of marital rape and sexual harassment are not well 
established, and most such acts would not be considered crimes.
    Many men, especially those from the northeastern part of the 
country, still follow the traditional code known as the ``kanun,'' in 
which women are considered chattel and may be treated as such. Also 
under the kanun, it is acceptable to kidnap young women for brides; 
this practice, too, continues in some areas of the northeast.
    Trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution is a 
significant problem (see Section 6.f.).
    Women are not excluded, by law or in practice, from any occupation; 
however, they are not well-represented at the highest levels of their 
fields. The Labor Code mandates equal pay for equal work, but no data 
are available on how well this principle is implemented in practice. 
Women enjoy equal access to higher education, but they are not accorded 
full and equal opportunity in their careers, and it is common for well-
educated women to be underemployed or to work outside the field of 
their training. An increasing number of women are beginning to venture 
out on their own, opening shops and small businesses. Many are 
migrating along with men to Greece and Italy to seek employment.
    Children.--The Government's commitment to children's rights and 
welfare is codified in domestic law and through international 
agreements. The law provides for the right to at least 8 years of free 
education and also authorizes private schools. School attendance is 
mandatory through the eighth grade (or age 18, whichever comes first); 
however, in practice many children leave school earlier than allowed by 
law in order to work with their families, especially in rural areas. A 
study by the Albanian Helsinki Committee noted that a few thousand 
children, largely from the underdeveloped northeast of the country, 
were forced to quit school because their families were involved in 
``blood feuds'' that endangered the safety of even minor family 
members.
    Child abuse is a little-reported problem, but the authorities and 
NGO's believe that it exists. Trafficking in children is a problem (see 
Section 6.f.). Criminals may kidnap children from families or 
orphanages to be sold to prostitution or pederasty rings abroad. Within 
the country, Romani children often work as beggars, and the police 
generally ignore the practice.
    People with Disabilities.--Widespread poverty, unregulated 
occupational hazards, and poor medical care pose significant problems 
for many disabled persons. The disabled are eligible for various forms 
of public assistance, but budgetary constraints mean that the amounts 
that they receive are very low. No law mandates accessibility to public 
buildings for people with disabilities, and little has been done in 
that regard.
    Religious Minoritites.--The Archbishop of the country's Orthodox 
Church has noted incidents in which the Orthodox and their churches or 
other buildings have been the targets of vandalism. There were reports 
that a number of Orthodox churches in the south were burned. The 
Albanian Helsinki Committee issued a report on August 26 stating that 
unknown persons damaged or desecrated more than 10 Orthodox churches 
and monasteries in 1998 and 1999. In January a Greek Orthodox church 
was burned to the ground. In July a Greek Orthodox church in Ksamil was 
desecrated with human feces smeared on icons, then set on fire. Also in 
July, a Greek Orthodox church in Metohi was burned down.
    The Sunnis and Orthodox Christians consider Baha'is to be a threat 
and exercise increasing pressure on authorities to ostracize them. In a 
press interview, Hazhi Hafiz Savri Koci, the leader of the Sunni Muslim 
community, declared that ``the virus of pseudo-religions, such as the 
Baha'i Faith, has infiltrated our weak body. We are at war with them, 
because they are trying to corrupt our souls through the power of 
money, spreading religious beliefs and superstition that are totally 
alien to the Albanian character and tradition.''
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities.--The Government played a 
constructive role in maintaining the nation's generally positive record 
on the treatment of minorities. While no recent official statistics 
exist regarding the size of the various ethnic communities, ethnic 
Greeks are the most organized and receive the most attention and 
assistance from abroad. There are also substantial groups of 
Macedonians, Vlachs, and Roma.
    Greek-language public elementary schools are now common in much of 
the southern part of the country, where almost all ethnic Greeks live. 
However, there are no Greek-language high schools. There is a Greek 
chair at the University of Gjirokaster. The Greek minority association, 
known as Omonia, continued to press the authorities for more measures 
to protect the rights of the Greek minority, including the creation of 
additional Greek-language classes in some parts of southern Albania. 
The organization also complained that a number of Orthodox churches in 
the south (mainly in areas inhabited by the Greek minority) were burned 
in acts of ethnic violence. The organization reported that during 1998, 
more than 14 persons, mainly from the ethnic Greek minority, were 
kidnaped and held for ransom. This organization appealed to the 
Government to take measures to stop what it called ``attacks against 
the ethnic Greek minority.''
    Classes in the Macedonian language are available to students in the 
districts of Pogradeci and Devolli on the border of the Former Yugoslav 
Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The FYROM Government provides texts for 
these classes. A small group of ethnic Montenegrins and ethnic Serbs 
exists in the north. No discrimination was reported against the Vlachs, 
who speak Romanian as well as Albanian, or against the Cams, non-
Orthodox ethnic Albanians who were exiled from Greece in 1944. Both 
groups live mainly in the south.
    Two distinct groups of Roma, the Jevg and the Arrixhi (Gabel), are 
established in the country. The Jevg tend to be settled in urban areas 
and are generally more integrated in the economy than the Arrixhi. Roma 
are clearly the most neglected minority group. Broadly speaking, they 
suffer from high illiteracy, poor public health conditions, and marked 
economic disadvantages. Roma encounter much societal discrimination, 
but generally neither the police nor individuals target Roma for 
violence.
Section 6. Worker Rights
    a. The Right of Association.--Workers have the right to form 
independent trade unions. The 1993 Labor Code established procedures 
for the protection of workers' rights through collective bargaining 
agreements. Two major federations act as umbrella organizations for 
most of the country's unions: The Independent Confederation of Trade 
Unions of Albania (127,000 members) and the Confederation of Trade 
Unions (80,000 members). Both organizations experienced a drop in 
membership during the year. Some unions chose not to join either of the 
federations. No union has an official political affiliation, and the 
Government does not provide any financial support for unions.
    The Law on Major Constitutional Provisions and other legislation 
provide that all workers except the uniformed military, the police, and 
some court officials have the right to strike. The law forbids strikes 
that are declared openly to be political or that are judged by the 
courts to be political. The two unions organized a number of national 
and local strikes during the year. Major strikes were carried out by 
the teachers, drivers, health workers, and miners unions. In June 
Tirana airport ground staff went on strike; they returned to work after 
receiving a 30 percent salary increase.
    Government statistics indicated that approximately 330,000 workers 
were employed formally (111,000 in the private sector and 213,000 in 
the public sector) and that an additional 761,000 persons worked in 
agriculture. A total of 235,037 persons were registered as unemployed. 
The official unemployment rate was 18 percent during the year.
    Unions are free to join and maintain ties with international 
organizations, and many do.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--Citizens in all 
fields of employment, except uniformed members of the armed forces, 
police officers, and some court employees, have the right to organize 
and bargain collectively. In practice unions representing public sector 
employees negotiate directly with the Government.
    Labor unions did not operate from a position of strength, in view 
of economic conditions, which consisted of very high unemployment, slow 
recovery from the economic collapse, and extensive destruction of 
economic infrastructure due to recurrent episodes of violence and 
looting. Effective collective bargaining in these circumstances is very 
difficult, and agreements are hard to enforce.
    There are no functioning export processing zones.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--The Law on Major 
Constitutional Provisions and the Labor Code prohibit forced or 
compulsory labor, and generally it is not known to occur; however, 
traffickers kidnap women for prostitution, and family members sell 
daughters, sisters, and wives to traffickers against their will (see 
Section 6.f.). The law also forbids forced or bonded labor by children, 
and the Government generally enforces these prohibitions; however, 
there were reports that children are trafficked and forced to work 
abroad as prostitutes or beggars (see Section 6.f.).
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--The Labor Code sets the minimum age of employment at 16 
years and limits the amount and type of labor that can be performed by 
persons under age 18. Children between the ages of 14 and 16 legally 
may work in part-time jobs during summer vacation. Primary school 
education is compulsory and free through age 18 or the eighth grade, 
whichever comes first. In rural areas, children continue to assist 
families in farm work.
    The Ministry of Labor may enforce the minimum age requirements 
through the courts, but no recent cases of this actually occurring were 
known. In Tirana and other cities it is common to see children selling 
cigarettes and candies on the street. The law forbids forced or bonded 
labor by children, but there were some reports of such practices (see 
Sections 6.e. and 6.f.).
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--The legal minimum wage for all 
workers over age 16 is approximately $50 (6,750 lek) per month, which 
is not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker 
and family. Many workers look for second jobs, which are difficult to 
find. Remittances from those working abroad are very important for many 
families. The law provides for social assistance (income support) and 
unemployment compensation, but these are very limited, both in terms of 
the amounts received and the number of persons actually covered. The 
average wage for workers in the public sector is approximately $100 
(13,500 lek) per month.
    The difference between the monthly average wage of persons who live 
in the rural and urban areas is considerable: persons who work and live 
in urban areas earn almost 50 percent more than those who live and work 
in rural areas. Data from the National Institute of Statistics 
indicated that in rural areas more than 20 percent of persons live 
under the official poverty line, while in urban areas the figure is 11 
percent. Nationwide, over 17 percent of the population live under the 
official poverty line. No data are available for private sector wages, 
but they are believed to be considerably higher than in the public 
sector.
    The legal maximum workweek is 48 hours, although in practice hours 
typically are set by individual or collective agreement. Many persons 
work 6 days a week.
    The Government sets occupational health and safety standards, but 
it has limited funds to make improvements in the remaining state-owned 
enterprises and a limited ability to enforce standards in the private 
sector. Actual conditions in the workplace are generally very poor and 
often dangerous. In the two cases of deaths recorded in the 
construction industry during the year, the victims' families did not 
receive any financial support from the state social security 
administration because the workers were not insured. The Labor Code 
lists the safety obligations of employers and employees but does not 
provide specific protection for workers who choose to leave a workplace 
because of hazardous conditions.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--No laws criminalize trafficking in 
persons, although antikidnaping laws may be used to prosecute such 
cases.
    Trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of forced 
prostitution is a significant problem. The country is both a 
significant transit and source country for such trafficking. NGO's 
estimate that there are 30,000 Albanian women currently working abroad 
as prostitutes. The country is also a major conduit for trafficked 
women from Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine. Criminal 
gangs recruit or coerce women to work as prostitutes abroad, most often 
in Italy and Greece. There are also reports that traffickers kidnap 
women for prostitution and that family members sell daughters, sisters, 
and wives to traffickers against their will.
    The Government has had only periodic success in arresting the 
criminal organizers. During the year there was a shift in the 
prostitution network. Albanian traffickers began to recruit prostitutes 
from other East European countries, mainly from Moldova, Ukraine, 
Russia, and Bulgaria. These young women are ``bought'' for a price of 
$1,000 to $3,000 from international traffickers and forced into 
prostitution in Western European countries, mainly Italy and Greece. 
The Albanian police detained a large number of such prostitutes and 
arrested some of the Albanian traffickers, but no suspects were tried 
in connection with these crimes. In February police dismissed an 
officer who was involved in a network that smuggled illegal immigrants 
into the country via Rinas airport. In August police cracked a network 
that was smuggling prostitutes from Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, and 
Romania via Albania to Italy. Police detained 13 prostitutes and three 
men in a motel near Shodra. Also in August, Prosecutor General Arben 
Rakipi said that Italian Mafia bosses actively were engaged in 
trafficking in Albania; in July Albanian police arrested Giuseppe Muolo 
of Sacra Corona Unita, a Mafia group in southern Italy.
    Anecdotal evidence gathered from victims outlines the trafficking 
process. Organized crime groups responsible for trafficking in persons 
have the power to move their victims easily from one place to another 
without intervention. These traffickers steal the victims' 
identification documents so that they have no freedom of movement. 
Cases have been reported in which trafficked women and girls were 
raped, sexually assaulted, beaten, and injected with heroin. Women and 
girls have reported that they have been isolated, infrequently fed, and 
denied sleep. Women and girls who are able to escape their traffickers 
face rigid notions of family honor upon their return to their 
communities, which make it extremely difficult for them to marry or 
continue their lives as before.
    Trafficking in children is also a problem. Criminals may kidnap 
children from families or orphanages to be sold to prostitution or 
pederasty rings abroad. In May gangsters belonging to a prostitution 
ring in Vlora killed a 16-year-old refugee girl in a kidnap attempt. 
Children also are forced to work as beggars.
    A number of women's associations and NGO's are seeking to raise 
public awareness of prostitution and related crimes. Most of the work 
done to assist trafficked women is performed by small, local NGO's, 
consisting of one to five women who work with few resources and almost 
no external support. One NGO organized a national seminar on this issue 
and prepared a TV documentary on trafficking in women. The campaign 
waged by this NGO, ``Stop the Trafficking of Albanian Women,'' was 
aimed at sensitizing the public to this serious problem. In July 1998, 
a major conference was held in Tirana on ``Trafficking in Albanian 
Women and Children: Human Dimensions and Legal Responses,'' which was 
attended by 130 participants, including NGO's, journalists, judges, 
prosecutors, and government officials. In September the International 
Organization for Migration and the British Department for International 
Development held a workshop to address the problem of trafficking; 
national and international NGO's attended.
                                 ______
                                 

                                ANDORRA

    The Principality of Andorra is a constitutional parliamentary 
democracy. Two Princes with joint authority representing secular and 
religious authorities have headed the Principality since 1278. Under 
the 1993 Constitution, the two Princes--the President of France and the 
Spanish Bishop of ``Seu d'Urgell''--serve equally as heads of state and 
are each represented in Andorra by a delegate. Elections were held in 
1997 to choose members of the ``Consell General'' (the Parliament), 
which selects the head of government. The judiciary functions 
independently.
    Andorra has no defense force and depends on neighboring Spain and 
France for external defense. The national police, under effective 
civilian control, have sole responsibility for internal security.
    The market-based economy is dependent on those of its neighbors 
France and Spain. Andorra is recovering from a serious economic 
recession, but the economy provides citizens with a good standard of 
living. Tourism is still an important source of income. Because of 
banking secrecy laws, the financial services sector is growing in 
importance.
    The Government generally respected the human rights of its 
citizens, and the law and the judiciary provide effective means of 
dealing with individual instances of abuse.
                        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.--The Constitution prohibits such practices, and there were 
no reports that officials employed them.
    Prison conditions meet minimum international standards, and the 
Government permits visits by human rights monitors.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--The Constitution 
prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the Government 
observes these prohibitions.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--The Constitution provides for an 
independent judiciary, and the Government respects this provision in 
practice.
    The highest judicial body is the five-member Superior Council of 
Justice. One member each is appointed by: The two Princes; the head of 
government; the President of the Parliament; and, collectively, members 
of the lower courts. Members of the judiciary are appointed for 6-year 
terms.
    The judiciary provided citizens with a fair and efficient judicial 
process.
    There were no reports of political prisoners.
    f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--The Constitution provides citizens with safeguards 
against arbitrary interference with their ``privacy, honor, and 
reputation,'' and government authorities generally respect these 
prohibitions. Private dwellings are considered inviolable. No searches 
of private premises may be conducted without a judicially issued 
warrant. The law also protects private communications.
Section 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 respects these 
rights in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a 
functioning democratic political system combine to ensure freedom of 
speech and of the press, including academic freedom.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The Constitution 
provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in 
practice. Since adoption of the 1993 Constitution, the Government has 
registered seven political parties.
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution provides for freedom of 
religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. The 
Constitution acknowledges a special relationship between the Roman 
Catholic Church and the state, ``in accordance with Andorran 
tradition.'' The Catholic Church receives no direct subsidies from the 
Government. Catholic religious instruction is provided in public 
schools to those students who elect to receive it. Recent governmental 
attempts to eliminate this practice met with resistance from parental 
groups and the Spanish Co-Prince.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--The Constitution provides for these 
rights, and the Government respects them in practice.
    The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for 
Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. It 
is government policy not to expel persons having valid claims to 
refugee status, and there were no reports of such expulsions. The issue 
of first asylum did not arise during the year.
Section 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.
    Progress has been made, but women continue to play a relatively 
minor role in politics. Despite the absence of formal barriers, few 
women have run for office. Only 2 of 28 Members of Parliament are 
women, and only 2 women occupy cabinet level positions. Prior to the 
current administration, only two women held elective office.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    The Government accepts international and nongovernmental 
investigations of allegations of human rights abuses. During 1998 the 
first two domestic human rights groups were formed. One defends the 
rights of foreign residents; the other actively supports women's 
rights. However, the Government declined to create a secretariat of 
women's affairs, as the latter association requested.
    In one case, a citizen filed a complaint with the European Court of 
Human Rights when the judge in his case disallowed his appeal to the 
Constitutional Court. The appeal contended that his trial was not 
sufficiently impartial.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language, or Social Status
    The Constitution declares that all persons are equal before the law 
and prohibits discrimination on grounds of birth, race, sex, origin, 
religion, opinions, or any other personal or social condition, although 
the law grants many rights and privileges exclusively to citizens. The 
Government effectively enforces these provisions.
    Women.--Little data exist regarding marital abuse, although the 
police received four complaints of physical or psychological abuse 
during the year.
    In theory there is no legal discrimination against women, either 
privately or professionally, but the Association of Andorran Women 
reports that in practice, there have been many cases of women dismissed 
from employment due to pregnancy. The Association actively promotes 
women's issues through information exchanges and limited direct support 
to those in need.
    Children.--The Government's commitment to children's welfare is 
demonstrated by its systems of health care and education. Free public 
education begins at age 4 and is compulsory until age 16. The 
Government provides free nursery schools, although the existing number 
falls short of the needs.
    There is no societal pattern of abuse of children.
    People with Disabilities.--There is no discrimination against 
disabled persons in employment, education, or in the provision of other 
state services. The law mandates access to new buildings for people 
with disabilities, and the Government enforces these provisions in 
practice.
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities.--Spanish nationals are the 
largest group of foreign residents, accounting for approximately 43 
percent of the population. Other sizable foreign groups are Portuguese, 
French, and British. A small but fast growing group of African 
immigrants, especially from North Africa, work mostly in agriculture 
and construction.
    Although the Constitution states that foreign legal residents enjoy 
the same rights and freedoms as citizens, some immigrant workers 
believe that they do not have the same rights and security. Recent 
legislation has improved the quality of life for immigrant workers. 
Nevertheless, many immigrant workers hold only ``temporary work 
authorizations.'' These permits are valid only as long as the job 
exists for which the permit was obtained. When job contracts expire, 
temporary workers must leave the country. The Government prohibits the 
issuance of work permits, unless workers can demonstrate that they have 
a fixed address with minimally satisfactory living conditions.
    More than 4,000 immigrants do not have work permits or residence 
permits, due to the fact that the quota for immigration is not as high 
as the number of workers needed and employed in the country.
Section 6. Worker Rights
    a. The Right of Association.--The Constitution recognizes the right 
of all persons to form and maintain managerial, professional, and trade 
union associations without prejudice. In accordance with constitutional 
provisions, a registry of associations was established in 1996 and is 
being maintained. Strikes were illegal under the old system, and the 
new Constitution does not state explicitly that strikes are permitted.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--The 
Constitution states that both ``workers and employers have the right to 
defend their own economic and social interests.'' Parliament is charged 
with adopting legislation to regulate this right in order to guarantee 
the provision of essential services. Antiunion discrimination is not 
prohibited under the law. A police trade union was registered during 
the year. It is the first such association to exist in the country.
    There are no export processing zones.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--Forced labor, 
including that performed by children, is not specifically prohibited by 
law, but it has not occurred.
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--Children under the age of 18 normally are prohibited from 
working, although in exceptional circumstances children ages 16 and 17 
may be allowed to work. The Labor Inspection Office in the Ministry of 
Social Welfare, Public Health, and Labor enforces child labor 
regulations. Forced and bonded labor by children is not prohibited 
specifically, but there were no reports of its practice (see Section 
6.c.).
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--The workweek is limited to 40 
hours, although longer hours may be required. The legal maximums for 
overtime hours are 66 hours per month and 426 hours per year. An 
official minimum wage is set by government regulations. Other, higher 
wages are established by contract. The minimum wage is approximately 
$4.20 (641 pesetas) per hour, and the Labor Inspection Office enforces 
its observance. The minimum wage barely provides a decent standard of 
living for a worker and family. Workers can be dismissed with 15 days' 
to 6 months' notice depending on how long they have been working for 
the company. A minimal indemnification of 1 month's salary per year 
worked is paid if a worker is fired without justification.
    A dismissed worker receives unemployment and health benefits for 
only 25 days. A board composed of Andorran nationals, although they 
represent only a small portion of the work force, controls retirement 
benefits. The Labor Inspection Service hears labor complaints.
    The Labor Inspection Service sets occupational health and safety 
standards and takes the necessary steps to see that they are enforced. 
The law authorizes employees to refuse certain tasks if their employers 
do not provide the customary level of protection.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--The law does not prohibit trafficking 
in persons; however, there were no reports that persons were trafficked 
in, to, or from the country.
                                 ______
                                 

                                ARMENIA

    Armenia has a constitution that provides for the separation of 
powers; however, the directly elected President has extensive powers of 
appointment and decree that are not balanced by the legislature or an 
independent judiciary. The President appoints the Prime Minister, who 
is in charge of the Cabinet. Robert Kocharian was elected President in 
a multicandidate election in 1998 after former President Levon Ter-
Petrossian was forced to resign in February by his former political 
allies in the Government and Parliament. Then President Ter-
Petrossian's reelection in 1996 was flawed by numerous irregularities 
and serious breaches of the election law. There also were serious flaws 
in both rounds of the 1998 presidential elections. Organization for 
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers witnessed very 
substantial irregularities and concluded that the elections seriously 
challenged international democratic norms in regard to most key 
criteria. It appears that ballot box stuffing, discrepancies in vote 
counts, a large number of unauthorized persons in polling stations, and 
other fraud perpetrated by local power structures inflated the number 
of votes for Kocharian. Nonetheless, the 1998 elections and the May 
parliamentary and October municipal elections showed continued 
improvement with respect to voting practices and vote-counting as well 
as to the ability of a pluralistic group of candidates to campaign 
freely. Although irregularities marred both the parliamentary elections 
and local elections, OSCE observers categorized the former as an step 
toward compliance with OSCE commitments, but stated that they still 
failed to meet international standards. Observers reported that the 
situation was much improved in terms of ending ballot box stuffing and 
overt intimidation by supporters of various candidates; however, they 
still noted problems in many precincts with inaccurate or obsolete 
voting lists, the presence of unauthorized personnel during the voting 
and counting processes, and possible irregularities involving voting of 
military personnel. Some local observers reported that municipal 
elections also were flawed. The Parliament differs from previous ones 
in two important ways: First, members are required to serve full-time 
and not to hold jobs outside the legislature; and second, the number of 
seats was reduced from 190 to 131. The current parliamentary majority 
usually votes in support of the Government. The legislators do not 
always represent effectively either the needs of their constituents or 
the existing political party composition, although they do so more 
effectively than in previous parliaments. The current majority, made up 
of a coalition, called Unity, of the two largest parties, the Peoples' 
Party and the Republican Party, also attracts the votes of most 
deputies elected as independents. Although the leaders of both parties 
were killed in the October 27 terrorist attack on parliament, this did 
not appear to affect the continuity of their coalition by year's end. 
The legislature approves new laws, must confirm the Prime Minister's 
program, and can remove the Prime Minister by a vote of no confidence. 
Both the Government and the legislature can propose legislation. The 
Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, in 
practice, the courts are subject to pressure from the executive branch 
and corruption.
    The Ministries of Internal Affairs and of National Security, 
formerly one ministry which was split in June, are jointly responsible 
for domestic security, intelligence activities, border controls, and 
the national police force. Members of the security forces committed 
human rights abuses.
    The transition from a centralized, controlled economy to a market 
economy continued to move forward, although the industrial sector still 
is not functioning at full capacity and its output remains low. 
Unemployment remains high, resulting in a high degree of income 
inequality, but the exact figure is difficult to quantify. This is 
because a significant amount of economic activity, perhaps as much as 
40 percent, is not captured by government accounting or taxation; 
unemployment is approximately 50 percent. Women form a 
disproportionately large number of the unemployed. Most small and 
medium-sized enterprises have been privatized, as has most agricultural 
land. About 75 percent of landowners now have secure title to their 
land. The gross domestic product (GDP) fell slightly to about $590 per 
capita. Inflation fell to 2.1 percent for the year. Foreign assistance 
and remittances from Armenians abroad play a major role in sustaining 
the economy, although the financial crisis in Russia, where many 
Armenians went to look for work, cut deeply into the flow of 
remittances. The Government is working to resolve its current budget 
crisis through increased taxes on gasoline and imported tobacco, as 
well as through cuts in most areas of government spending.
    The Government's human rights record was poor in several important 
areas, and problems persist. Substantial intervention by local power 
structures in the election process continues to restrict citizens' 
ability to change their government peacefully. Members of the security 
forces committed extrajudicial killings, routinely beat detainees 
during arrest and interrogation, arbitrarily arrested and detained 
persons without warrants, and did not respect constitutional 
protections regarding privacy and due process. Impunity remains a 
problem, and the Government rarely investigates abuses by members of 
the security forces. Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening, 
and lengthy pretrial detention is a problem. The judiciary is subject 
to political pressure and does not enforce constitutional protections 
effectively. There are some limits on press freedom, and many 
journalists practice self-censorship. State television, which refrains 
from criticizing government policy, remains the major source of news 
for most of the population, but independent television and newspapers, 
along with private radio stations, offer substantial competition. The 
nongovernmental media often criticize the country's leadership and 
policies. Burdensome registration requirements hinder freedom of 
association. The law places some restrictions on religious freedom, 
including a prohibition against proselytizing by religions other than 
the Armenian Apostolic Church. Registration requirements for religious 
groups kept Jehovah's Witnesses from operating legally, and eight 
members of Jehovah's Witnesses are in jail for refusing military 
service; three more arrested on those charges were released on bail. 
The Government places some restrictions on freedom of movement. 
Discrimination against women, the disabled, and minorities remains a 
problem.
    After his election, President Kocharian appointed an opposition 
presidential candidate to head two presidential commissions charged 
with improving human rights and reforming the Constitution to create a 
more even balance of power among the legislative, executive, and 
judicial branches. A subsequent commission on balancing the powers of 
the three branches of government presented several proposals that would 
weaken the influence of the executive over the other branches. These 
proposals are scheduled to be voted upon in a national referendum in 
May 2000. To date the Human Rights Commission has submitted a number of 
proposals, one of which is establishment of an office of ombudsman; 
however, there was no action taken on the ombudsman proposal by year's 
end.
    On October 27, five terrorists entered the National Assembly and 
opened fire, killing the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the National 
Assembly and six other Members of Parliament and wounding at least five 
more persons. Investigation of the killings, conducted by the Deputy 
Prosecutor General, was continuing at year's end. Fifteen persons were 
detained for interrogation, including a Deputy of the National 
Assembly, a former presidential chief of staff, and the deputy chief of 
state television. Defense attorneys and the press accused the Deputy 
Prosecutor General of using coercion, including physical abuse of the 
accused, to extract evidence, and President Kocharian expressed concern 
that the rights of the accused be respected.
                        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 killings by police or security forces during the 
year; however, there were numerous reports of extrajudicial killings. 
Local human rights groups reported five cases of death in custody as 
result of beatings and torture. Oleg Arishin, who died on April 27, and 
Stepan Gevorgian, who died on April 15, had been charged with robbery 
and assault. During the trial, Gevorgian filed motions of mistreatment 
that were rejected by the court; his family stated that his corpse 
revealed clear evidence that he was beaten severely. Yerevan native 
Arsen Stepanian was taken to a district police headquarters in July to 
testify on a dispute with a representative of the local electric power 
net. Stepanian died several hours later at home; post mortem 
examination confirmed that he had suffered broken bones and a heart 
attack. No one was charged in these deaths. On October 12, the 
International Helsinki Federation requested that President Kocharian 
investigate these cases; however, by year's end, no legal action was 
taken.
    Two other cases of death in custody involved Edward Vardanian, who 
allegedly committed suicide during interrogation at the police precinct 
in the city of Abovian in March, and Artush Ghazarian, military 
commissar of the city of Tashir, who allegedly died of beatings in 
September while in custody during his interrogation on unspecified 
charges.
    There was a significant number of deaths of military servicemen 
reportedly due to mistreatment (see Section 1.c.).
    Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening and medical 
treatment is inadequate. Three were a number of deaths due to disease 
(see Section 1.c.).
    Charges against five police officers for a 1993 death, a case 
repeatedly remanded for investigation by the Supreme Court, were never 
pressed despite assurances by a previous Prosecutor General.
    On October 27, five terrorists opened fire on a session of the 
National Assembly with automatic weapons. They killed the Prime 
Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the two Deputy 
Speakers, the Minister for Special Projects, and three Deputies, and 
wounded the Minister of Privatization and four other Deputies, some 
critically. The gunmen claimed that they intended to kill only the 
Prime Minister, and that the other victims died in a cross-fire with 
guards, although video footage clearly showed the terrorists firing 
into victims in other parts of the room. Announcing that they were 
carrying out a coup against alleged corruption in the Government, they 
then held approximately 150 hostages inside the Parliament building, 
gradually releasing them during the night.
    On the morning of October 28, the terrorists released about 50 
remaining hostages and surrendered to security forces. According to 
their reported statements, their motives were related to frustration 
over the direction in which the country was going, but also may have 
included personal grievances. Security at the Parliament building, 
which was handled by special parliamentary guards, was extremely lax, 
and criticism mounted, including from the Ministry of Defense, against 
the Ministers of National Security and of Interior and the Prosecutor 
General; the two latter officials submitted their resignations on 
October 29. Their resignations were subsequently were accepted by the 
President. The Minister of National Security resigned on November 1, 
and subsequently was appointed presidential chief of staff. The Deputy 
Prosecutor General (who is also military prosecutor general) was placed 
in charge of investigating the killings. Fifteen persons were detained 
for interrogation by year's end, including a Deputy of the National 
Assembly (who was stripped of his parliamentary immunity by a vote of 
that body), a former presidential chief of staff and advisor, and the 
deputy chief of state television. The investigation was criticized by 
attorneys for the detainees, by the media, and by representatives of 
several political parties for reported human rights abuses (see Section 
1.c.). Gagik Jahangirian, the military prosecutor who is conducting the 
investigation into the parliamentary shootings, repeatedly rejected 
calls for the creation of a special parliamentary committee to ensure 
an impartial investigation. The chairman of the National Democratic 
Union, Vazgen Manukian, and other opposition politicians charged the 
authorities with manipulation of the investigation for political 
reasons.
    On the night of February 9, the body of Artsrun Margarian, Deputy 
Minister of Interior and National Security and Chief of Internal 
Troops, was found on the roadside near Yerevan. Margarian's two 
bodyguards, arrested after his death and charged with homicide, were 
released from custody in July and not charged for lack of evidence (see 
Section 1.c.). The third person allegedly involved in Margarian's 
death, Doctor Hrant Papikian, is charged with not reporting plotted 
crimes. Court hearings on the Margarian case began in October; however, 
there was no verdict by year's end.
    Margarian's case was one of a number of high-profile murders during 
the last 2 years that may have been related to corruption or criminal 
activities. Another case, the murder of Deputy Minister of Defense 
Vahram Khorkhoruni on December 10, 1998, is still under investigation. 
The lack of progress on the Margarian and Khorkhoruni cases was one of 
the reasons given by the Defense Ministry for demanding the 
resignations of the three major nonmilitary security officials. 
Investigation of the August 1998 murder of Prosecutor General Henrik 
Khachatrian by a subordinate was completed; the official verdict was 
``homicide and suicide.''
    In June the Prosecutor General's office completed investigation of 
a criminal indictment against former Minister of Interior and former 
mayor of Yerevan Vano Siradeghian, former commander of Interior 
Ministry troops Vahan Harutyunian, and others. Siradeghian's indictment 
listed 10 counts, including, among other charges, the 1993 murder of 
Armenian railroad director Hambartzum Ghandilian, the murder of 
Ashtarak district executive committee chairman Hovannes Sukiasian, and 
the attempted murder of the chief of the Prosecutor General's 
investigation department, Vladimir Grigorian, as well as kidnaping and 
bribery. Court hearings in the Siradeghian case, which also involves 11 
other defendants, began in September but were postponed several times 
at the request of Siradeghian's attorneys. At year's end, the case was 
in progress in a Yerevan court.
    Another Siradeghian-related court case involved the trial of an 
armed gang led by Armen Ter-Sahakian. Most of the gang members were 
former Interior Ministry employees. The gang allegedly was responsible 
for a number of murders of top officials carried out since the country 
gained independence, as well as for extortion, robbery, and illegal 
possession of weapons. At year's end, the trial was in its intermediate 
stages.
    b. Disappearance.--There were no reports of politically motivated 
disappearances.
    In September the Government unilaterally released three POW's under 
OSCE auspices; Azerbaijan reciprocated by unilaterally releasing four 
POW's. In October two more Azeri POW's were released, and still one 
more was released in December.
    c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment.--The Constitution and the law prohibit torture; however, 
the practice of security personnel beating pretrial detainees during 
arrest and interrogation remains a routine part of criminal 
investigations, and prosecutors rely on such confessions to secure 
convictions. Most cases of police brutality go unreported. Impunity 
remains a problem.
    Local human rights groups reported five cases of death in custody 
due to torture and beatings (see Section 1.a.).
    Attorneys for the five gunmen charged in the October 27 killings in 
Parliament claimed in the media that the accused were being held in 
inhuman conditions and were beaten during interrogations. The 
government-appointed Commission on Human Rights made several attempts 
to see the prisoners to verify charges that they were being physically 
abused but was not able to see them. An attorney for National Assembly 
Deputy Mushegh Movsesian, who was detained in connection with the case, 
also claimed that his client was beaten, and a parliamentary candidate 
who examined him agreed. The attorney requested that Movsesian be 
examined for a severe ulcer from which he reportedly was suffering; the 
deputy prosecutor general's office agreed to this on December 24.
    Although defense lawyers may present evidence of torture in an 
effort to overturn improperly obtained confessions, and according to 
law all such charges must be investigated, judges and prosecutors 
routinely ignore such complaints even when the perpetrator can be 
identified.
    The Government has not conducted investigations of abuse by 
security services, except in rare cases where death has resulted and 
under pressure from human rights groups. The number of deaths of 
conscripts from training accidents and physical abuse decreased by 33 
percent between 1997 and September, according to government figures. 
While this number cannot be verified, based on information from human 
rights groups the figure of 120 noncombat deaths during the year 
appears to be accurate. Amnesty International stated that a conscript 
arrested for being absent without leave was beaten so badly in August 
1998 that subsequently he died. The case currently is pending in the 
Echmiadzin regional court. The military prosecutor's office reported 
that in September investigations were continuing in 32 cases involving 
deaths. President Kocharian met in November with the parents of 
conscripts who died or were injured severely during training and 
promised them that the cases would be investigated fully. There are no 
separate military courts (see Section 1.e.). Military cases that go to 
trial (many are settled administratively) in civilian courts are 
handled by the military prosecutor's office. Members of the Yezidi 
ethnic-religious minority complain that ``hazing'' and beating of 
conscripts, common throughout the former Soviet Union, are especially 
severe for conscripts from their ranks.
    According to a March letter from the President's Office to Human 
Rights Watch, the military Prosecutor General or the military Inspector 
General had fired 18 employees of those 2 offices since July 1997 for 
violations of criminal procedure leading to suicides or accidental 
deaths of servicemen. The President's letter also stated that the 
military Inspector General and Prosecutor General had prosecuted and 
convicted 80 military officers in 1998 for violations of the military 
code; 32 were for abuse of power, 3 for murder or attempted murder, 2 
for causing suicides, and 2 for causing maiming or severe bodily 
injury. The Ministry of Defense declined to provide exact details on 
cases involving national security while the country remained 
technically in a state of war with Azerbaijan.
    Homosexuals complain that police physically and mentally abuse 
them, especially if they have no means to pay police extortions. Those 
accused of homosexuality in the military generally are believed to 
suffer beatings and other physical abuse.
    Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening. Facilities are 
often overcrowded and food is inadequate to preserve health unless 
supplemented by assistance from families. Medical and sanitary 
facilities in prisons are inadequate. Tuberculosis and other 
communicable diseases are common, and there were a number of deaths 
from such diseases during the year. Although agreement in principle was 
been reached in 1997 to transfer responsibility for prisons from the 
Ministry of Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Justice to improve 
oversight, no action to that effect was taken by year's end. Physical 
abuse by guards and by other prisoners is a problem. After a visit to 
the principal prison in Yerevan for detainees held by the Ministry of 
the Interior, the head of the Armenia Human Rights Commission reported 
on December 23 that complaints by prisoners had focused on poor 
conditions in their cells and on reported physical and verbal abuse by 
Interior Ministry personnel.
    According to his lawyer, Ministry of Internal Affairs staff beat 
former Minister of Education Ashot Bleyan while he was in prison on 
August 18. He was awaiting trial on corruption charges (see Section 
1.d.).
    According to the Armenian Helsinki Association, the two bodyguards 
of the late Deputy Interior Minister Artsrun Margarian were subjected 
to torture in February during the investigation into Margarian's death 
(see Section 1.a.).
    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had free access 
to detention facilities run by the Ministry of Interior. In these 
facilities, the ICRC is able to visit, according to its standard 
modalities, any prisoner in whom it has an interest, whether in prisons 
or in local police stations. Also, the ICRC had regular access to POW's 
from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the prison of the Ministry of 
National Security and the military police stations. The ICRC also had 
access to POW's in Nagorno-Karabakh.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention or Exile.--Authorities continued to 
arrest and detain criminal suspects without legal warrants, often on 
the pretext that they were material witnesses. The police frequently 
imprison detainees without notification of their family members. It 
often is several days before family members obtain information as to 
whether someone has been arrested and the person's location. Security 
agencies often restrict access of lawyers and family members to 
prisoners until the preliminary investigation phase is complete, a 
process that can last weeks. During the year, the amount of time that 
detainees could be held without being charged officially was extended 
from 72 to 96 hours.
    The transitional provisions of the Constitution provide that 
Soviet-era procedures for searches and arrests were to continue until 
the new Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code came into effect in 
January. Although the Criminal Procedure Code entered into force, the 
Criminal Code remains under consideration in Parliament, and the likely 
date of its passage remains unclear. A suspect may be detained for no 
more than 12 months pending trial, after which the suspect must be 
released or tried. However, this latter provision is not always 
enforced. There is no provision for bail, although detainees may sign a 
document and remain at liberty under their own recognizance pending 
trial.
    Former deputy chief of customs Mihran Movsesian, a relative of 
detained National Assembly Deputy Musegh Movsesian, told the media that 
he was called to the Ministry of National Security in early November 
for questioning about the killings in Parliament. Movsesion said that 
he was detained for the next 30 days in the Ministry's holding facility 
for national security cases without being charged, in violation of the 
legal provision that detainees must be charged within 96 hours. 
Movsesian then was released without charge and was never given any 
official explanation for his detention.
    Former Education Minister Ashot Bleyan was detained by two law 
enforcement officials on May 14 after being charged with embezzlement 
of public funds intended for the purchase of textbooks (see Section 
1.c.). Supporters of Bleyan formed a committee for his defense. Human 
Rights Watch reports that according to his lawyer, he was beaten while 
in detention by Interior Ministry officials, and Bleyan stated in 
September that the procuracy official handling the case was present 
during the beating; the lawyer's report was not confirmed 
independently.
    Armed forces recruiters sometimes take hostages to compel the 
surrender of draft-evading or deserting relatives (see Section 1.f.).
    A local human rights group alleges that there are cases in which 
security authorities use confinement in mental institutions as an 
alternative form of detention.
    The ICRC reported that civilian and military personnel on all sides 
of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict occasionally engage in cross-border 
hostage taking, sometimes to win release of a friend or relative held 
on the other side, but sometimes for financial gain. Such incidents 
reportedly declined significantly during the year.
    There were no reports of forced exile.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--The Constitution nominally 
provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice courts are 
subject to pressure from the executive branch and to corruption. The 
Constitution's provisions do not appear designed to insulate the courts 
from political pressure. Other legal and constitutional provisions make 
judges and prosecutors dependent on the executive branch for their 
employment. The inherited Soviet system views the court largely as a 
rubber stamp for the prosecutor and not a defender of citizens' rights. 
Prosecutors still greatly overshadow defense lawyers and judges during 
trials. Under the Constitution, the Council of Justice, headed by the 
President, the Prosecutor General, and the Justice Minister, appoints 
and disciplines judges for the tribunal courts of first instance, 
review courts, and the Court of Appeals. The President appoints the 
other 14 members of the Justice Council and 4 of the 9 Constitutional 
Court judges. This authority gives the President dominant influence in 
appointing and dismissing judges at all levels. Judges are subject to 
review by the President through the Council of Justice after 3 years. 
Thereupon, their tenure is permanent until they reach the age of 65.
    According to the transitional provisions of the Constitution, the 
existing courts retained their powers until the new judicial system 
began to function in January. During the transition, district courts 
tried most cases, with a right of appeal to regional courts and then to 
the Supreme Court.
    The 1995 Constitution requires a new three-level court system. The 
highest court, the Court of Cassation, began functioning in the summer 
of 1998. First instance courts try most cases, with a right of appeal 
to the Appellate Court and then to the Court of Cassation. The 
Constitutional Court rules on the conformity of legislation with the 
Constitution, approves international agreements, and decides election-
related legal questions. It can accept only cases proposed by the 
President, by two-thirds of all parliamentary deputies, or election-
related cases brought by candidates for parliament or the presidency. 
Due to these limitations, the Constitutional Court cannot ensure 
effectively constitutional human rights safeguards.
    Judges for the two lower-level courts, the Appellate Court and 
courts of the first instance, began functioning in January. The 
selection of judges was based on: their scores on a multiple choice 
test to determine their fitness to be judges under the new system, 
based on previously published information regarding the new legal 
codes; and their interviews with the Minister of Justice. Next, the 
list of nominations was approved by the Council of Justice and, 
finally, by the President. About 55 percent of the appointed judges 
were judges under the old structure. The executive branch continued to 
have a dominant role in judicial selection. Based on the results of 
this four-stage selection, 123 judges were appointed to the new courts 
on January 12. Unless they are found guilty of malfeasance, their 
tenure is permanent until they reach the age of 65.
    The judicial system continued to be in transition. As part of the 
package of judicial reform legislation mandated by the Constitution, 
both prosecutors and defense counsels began a process of retraining and 
recertification in order to retain their positions. Even though the 
newly passed legislation reduced significantly prosecutors' supervision 
of civil cases, prosecutors still greatly overshadow defense lawyers 
and judges during trials.
    The new Criminal Code, which is intended to clarify contradictory 
provisions of the law and create a more unitary, modern, and workable 
legal system has not yet been approved. Two other new codes, the Civil 
Code and the Criminal Procedures Code, were passed in the summer of 
1998 and went into effect in January. Under the new codes, prosecutors 
are expected to continue to have more influence than judges do. The 
functions of the Ministry of Justice have been reduced substantially 
with the establishment of the Council of Court Chairs, which is 
responsible for financial and budgetary issues for the courts. The 
Council of Court Chairs includes 21 court chairs (the senior judges of 
multi-judge panels) at all levels.
    The new criminal procedure code does not allow detainees to file a 
complaint in court prior to trial to redress abuses by the procuracy, 
police, or other security forces during criminal investigations. Under 
the new code, the police may detain individuals for up to 12 hours 
before notifying family members, witnesses have no right to legal 
counsel during questioning while in police custody--even though failure 
to testify is a criminal offense--and detainees must seek permission 
from the police or procuracy to obtain a forensic medical examination 
to substantiate a report of torture.
    President Kocharian established in June 1998 a constitutional 
reform commission, one of whose stated goals is to strengthen the 
independence of the judiciary and give the courts more authority in 
safeguarding human rights. On March 1, the commission submitted its 
suggestions for constitutional amendments to the President. One 
proposed change was to remove the prohibition against dual citizenship. 
The President disbanded the old commission and by a July 23 decree 
appointed new members to amend the Constitution's chapter on the 
judiciary. Such constitutional revisions must pass both Parliament and 
a national referendum.
    The military legal system operates essentially as it did in the 
Soviet era. There is no military court system; trials involving 
military personnel take place in the civil court system and are handled 
by military prosecutors. Military prosecutors perform the same 
functions as their civilian counterparts; pending passage of a new 
criminal code, they operate in accordance with the Soviet-era Criminal 
Code. In 1998 the military prosecutor abolished military ranks for the 
prosecutors in his service.
    All trials are public except when government secrets are at issue. 
Defendants are required to attend their trials unless they have been 
accused of a minor crime not punishable by imprisonment. Defendants 
have access to a lawyer of their own choosing. The court appoints an 
attorney for any defendant who needs one. Defendants may confront 
witnesses and present evidence. The Constitution provides that those 
accused of crimes shall be informed of charges against them. However, 
the constitutionally mandated presumption of innocence is ineffective, 
and acquittals are rare once a case comes to trial. Defendants and 
prosecutors have the right of appeal.
    There were no reports of political prisoners.
    The five remaining defendants in the ``Dro'' case remain in prison 
following conviction of criminal charges of murder. Two were condemned 
to death, but given the country's current moratorium on the death 
penalty, they may instead serve life or 25-year sentences. A sixth 
Dashnak prisoner, convicted of the murder of a policeman in a separate 
case, also remained in jail under sentence of death.
    f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--The Constitution prohibits unauthorized searches and 
preserves citizens' rights to privacy and confidentiality of 
correspondence, conversations, and other messages; however, authorities 
at times infringed on these rights. The security ministries must 
petition a judge for permission to wiretap a telephone or intercept 
correspondence. The judge acting alone purportedly must find a 
compelling need for the wiretap before granting the agency permission 
to proceed. No evidence of illegal wiretapping came to public attention 
during the year.
    The law requires security forces to obtain a search warrant from a 
judge before conducting a search. Security forces were refused issuance 
of warrants due to lack of evidence in several cases; however, in 
practice there are charges that searches continue to be made without a 
warrant. The Constitution provides that the judiciary must exclude 
evidence obtained without a warrant. Legislation passed in 1997 to 
improve security of bank deposits has been enforced.
    There continued to be violations of the right to privacy during 
army conscription drives. Armed forces recruiters sometimes take 
hostages to compel the surrender of draft-evading or deserting 
relatives. There are credible reports of improper conscription of 
ethnic Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan, who by law are exempt from 
military service. There were no reported cases of punitive conscription 
of males who offended local officials.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
    a. Freedom of Speech and Press.--The Constitution provides for 
freedom of speech and the press; however, while the Government 
generally respects freedom of speech, there are some limits on freedom 
of the press and journalists practice self-censorship. There is no 
official censorship, publications present a variety of views, and the 
opposition press regularly criticizes government policies and leaders, 
including the President, on sensitive issues such as the Nagorno-
Karabakh peace process and privatization.
    However, to avoid retribution experienced in years past on the part 
of powerful officials and other individuals, many journalists practice 
self-censorship, particularly in reporting on major corruption or 
national security issues. Many journalists remain cautious in their 
reporting, and the range of subjects considered sensitive for national 
security is relatively large.
    Newspapers, with the exception of Hayastani Hanrapetutyun and 
Respublica Armenia (both joint ventures between Parliament and their 
staffs), are privately owned. The state printing house and distribution 
agency both now function as commercial enterprises, with no visible 
government intervention.
    The sensationalist political tabloid Oragir and its successor 
Haykakan Zhamanak were subjected on several occasions in 1999 to legal 
pressure and intimidation stemming from articles that accused 
government figures of corruption and revealed alleged dubious 
connections between the then-Minister of Interior and National Security 
and a gasoline importing private company. A series of court cases and 
incidents included a public scuffle in June, when court bailiffs tried 
unsuccessfully to seize Oragir's equipment to satisfy a libel judgment. 
In September Oragir editor Nikol Pashinian was found guilty of libel, 
slander, libeling a public official, and contempt of court (for not 
publishing a retraction demanded by a court) and sentenced to 1 year of 
corrective labor and ordered to pay a fine of $25,000 (13.5 million 
drams). Pashinian appealed the judgment and not paid the fine; other 
journalists, who up to then had been largely nonsupportive of his case, 
passed a resolution criticizing the punishment as unduly harsh and for 
several weeks rallied almost daily in front of the President's office 
demanding a more lenient sentence. At year's end, no decision on the 
Pashinian case had been announced by the appeals court.
    On December 23, the offices of Haykakan Zhamanak were invaded by 
approximately a dozen men who beat and kicked Pashinian and other male 
members of the staff. They reportedly were led by a local businessman 
who was angered by an article in Haykakan Zhamanak that accused him of 
corruption. Pashinian afterwards announced that he would not file 
charges against his assailants, but that he expected them to apologize 
to all journalists for the attack. On December 25, the Russian 
newspaper Novoye Vremya had reprinted an article originally published 
in the Russian press accusing the late Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian 
of corruption. Novoye Vermya's editor subsequently reportedly received 
a threatening telephone call purporting to be from the Yerkrapah Union, 
a social/political faction of veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh war 
founded by Sargsian. The caller warned the editor that if his paper 
continued to ``insult'' the slain Prime Minister, his house would be 
burned. On December 31, a fire characterized by media reports as arson 
damaged the Yerevan offices of the Russian newspaper.
    Newspapers operate with extremely limited resources, and none are 
completely independent of patronage from economic or political interest 
groups or individuals. Due to prevailing economic conditions, newspaper 
circulation is small (a total of 40,000 copies, by the Department of 
Information's estimates, or about 1 copy per 100 persons). The state-
owned newspaper printing and distribution companies have been 
privatized, except for a small government stake. There were no 
complaints of official government pressure on news media.
    State institutions that previously had tended to exert control over 
the media have lost most of their functions. The Department of 
Information, created in 1997 to replace the disbanded Ministry of 
Information, continued to exist, but with no clear purpose beyond 
allocating small government subsidies to newspapers and occasionally 
interceding with the state-owned newspaper distribution agency to 
forward a share of its receipts to the newspapers. A board was created 
in late 1997 with representatives from the President's Office, 
Government, and Parliament, to supervise the transformation of the 
state-owned press agency, printing, and newspaper distribution into 
commercial enterprises. The board has not been active during the past 2 
years, and state-owned enterprises remain under government control. The 
President's Office continued to influence state television news 
coverage.
    The most widely available of the two state-owned television 
channels takes policy guidance from the Government; presenting mostly 
factual reporting, it avoids editorial commentary or criticism of 
official actions. During the May parliamentary elections, the coverage 
of political parties on state television and other media generally was 
balanced and largely neutral. Single-mandate candidates were not 
entitled to free programing, but had no restrictions on paid time. In 
Yerevan and major regional media markets, private television stations 
now offer independent news coverage of good technical quality. Most 
radio stations are private. Opposition parties and politicians receive 
adequate news coverage and access on these channels. Legislation has 
not been passed yet to regulate the current arbitrary and 
nontransparent process of license issuance. Draft broadcast and media 
laws, the subject of intensive discussion among journalists, were 
revised extensively, but for a second year they were not discussed by 
Parliament. One new measure announced in October 1998, a 25-fold 
increase in licensing fees for television broadcasters, was expected to 
have a serious effect on struggling private stations; these stations 
appealed for the measure's cancellation. After the President's 
intervention, the overall increase was significantly lowered (to three-
fold). The few international newspapers and magazines imported are not 
censored. There are no restrictions on reception of satellite 
television and other foreign media, and this material is not censored.
    The Government partially respects academic freedom. There are more 
than 80 private institutions of higher education. The Ministry of 
Education must approve the curriculum of all schools that grant degrees 
recognized by the State, seriously limiting the freedom of individual 
schools and teachers in their choice of textbooks and course material.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The Constitution 
provides for freedom of assembly, and the Government generally respects 
this right in practice. The Constitution provides for freedom of 
association, and the Government generally respects this right in 
practice; however, there are some important exceptions. There are 
cumbersome registration requirements for all political parties, 
associations, and organizations. The process of registering an 
organization is time consuming, and some human rights or political 
organizations have been compelled by the Government to revise their 
bylaws several times in order to have their registrations accepted. No 
human rights or political organization reported problems with 
registration during the year.
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution provides for freedom of 
religion; however, the law specifies some restrictions on the religious 
freedom of adherents of faiths other than the Armenian apostolic 
church, which has formal legal status as the national church.
    The 1991 Law on Freedom of Conscience, amended in 1997, establishes 
the separation of church and state, but grants the Armenian Apostolic 
Church special status. The law forbids ``proselytizing'' (undefined in 
the law) except by the Armenian Apostolic Church and requires all 
religious denominations and organizations to register with the State 
Council on Religious Affairs. Petitioning organizations must ``be free 
from materialism and of a purely spiritual nature,'' and must subscribe 
to a doctrine based on ``historically recognized holy scriptures.''
    A presidential decree issued in 1993 supplemented the 1991 law and 
strengthened the position of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The decree 
enjoins the Council on Religious Affairs to investigate the activities 
of the representatives of registered religious organizations and to ban 
missionaries who engage in activities contrary to their status. The 
Council on Religious Affairs took no action against missionaries during 
the year and even members of Jehovah's Witnesses, which is not 
registered, were allowed to engage fairly openly in missionary 
activity.
    In 1996 Parliament passed legislation tightening registration 
requirements by raising from 50 to 200 adult members the minimum number 
required for registration. The law banned funding for foreign-based 
churches from centers outside Armenia. The 1996 legislation also 
mandated that religious organizations except the Armenian Apostolic 
Church need prior permission from the State Council on Religious 
Affairs to engage in religious activities in public places, travel 
abroad, or to invite foreign guests to the country. Despite these 
mandated restrictions, in practice there is no restriction on travel by 
the religious personnel of any denomination, including those that are 
unregistered. Members of unregistered minority religious organizations 
are allowed to bring in small quantities of religious literature for 
their own use, but large shipments by unregistered groups are 
prohibited.
    As of year's end, registered religious groups had reported no 
adverse consequences from the law. The ban on foreign funding has not 
been enforced and is considered unenforceable by the Council on 
Religious Affairs. The Council has such limited resources that it has 
not performed any acts except the annual reregistering of religious 
groups. No registered religious group was denied reregistration under 
the amended law. All existing denominations reregistered except the 
Hare Krishnas, who reportedly dropped below even the previous 50-member 
threshold and hence did not seek to reregister and are no longer 
active. A few new organizations registered, in some instances groups 
created after splits in previous organizations, bringing the number of 
registered groups to 48.
    However, the Council on Religious Affairs continued to deny 
registration to Jehovah's Witnesses, no longer on the grounds that the 
group does not permit military service, but because its ``illegal 
proselytism'' is allegedly integral to its activity and because of the 
``dissatisfaction and tension'' caused in some communities by its 
public preaching. A regional leader of Jehovah's Witnesses held 
meetings with the Council on Religious Affairs in September, which he 
described as ``encouraging,'' but there was no change in the denial of 
registration by year's end. Jehovah's Witnesses have challenged their 
nonregistration in the courts as recommended in 1998 by the President's 
Human Rights Commission.
    Eleven members of Jehovah's Witnesses remained in detention, 
charged with draft evasion or, if forcibly drafted, with desertion. 
According to Amnesty International, at least one Jehovah's Witnesses 
conscript was beaten severely by military personnel in December 1998 
for refusal to wear a uniform. Around 50 Jehovah's Witnesses were 
reportedly in hiding from the draft. Alternative nonmilitary service is 
sometimes available for persons willing to act as teachers in remote 
villages, an option not available under current law to members of 
Jehovah's Witnesses. The President's office stated in March that a law 
was being drafted that would regulate alternative service for Jehovah's 
Witnesses and other conscientious objectors, but it had not been 
introduced by year's end. At least one member of Jehovah's Witnesses 
detained for draft evasion during the year indicated in writing his 
willingness to perform alternative service. A Jehovah's Witnesses 
official noted that some forms of alternate service would be 
problematic for members of his group, due to their creed's prohibition 
of participation in some government organs.
    Police curtailed a Jehovah's Witnesses convention held in September 
at a privately owned, rented facility outside Yerevan and tried to 
disperse the meeting nonviolently, citing an alleged decree by the 
National Security Council; however, they were unable to produce such a 
decree, and an official of the Council on Religious Affairs stated that 
it had not authorized dispersal of the meeting and was not aware of the 
decree. The police left without dispersing the meeting, but shortly 
thereafter power to the building was interrupted. Jehovah's Witnesses 
ended their meeting prematurely but peacefully. No agency admitted 
responsibility for the power interruption.
    According to the law, a religious organization refused registration 
cannot publish a newspaper or magazine, rent a meeting place on 
government-owned property, have its own program on television or radio, 
or officially sponsor the visas of visitors. Jehovah's Witnesses 
continue to have problems renting meeting places. Lack of official visa 
sponsorship means that visitors of Jehovah's Witnesses must pay for a 
tourist visa.
    The Armenian Apostolic Church elected a new head, or Catholicos, at 
an ecclesiastical conference in October attended by delegations from 
around the world. Although several candidates for this office alleged 
government interference in the election process, the vote was held in 
an open atmosphere and there were no signs of pressure or intimidation 
by government agencies.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--The Constitution provides for freedom of 
movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and 
repatriation; however, the Government places restrictions on some of 
those rights. The Government may deny passports to persons possessing 
state secrets, to those subject to military service, and to those whose 
relatives have made financial claims against them. Men of military age 
must overcome substantial bureaucratic obstacles to international 
travel. The Government does not restrict internal movement, and 
citizens have the right to change their residence or workplace freely. 
They must negotiate with a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy to 
register these changes, but this practice is now more a nuisance than 
an impediment. In addition registration of a residence is a difficult 
process, particularly for those who live in a rented dwelling.
    After the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict erupted between Armenia and 
Azerbaijan in 1988, ethnic minorities on both sides were subject to 
discrimination and intimidation, often accompanied by violence intended 
to drive them from the country. Almost all the ethnic Azeris living in 
Armenia at the time, some 185,000 persons, fled to Azerbaijan. Of the 
400,000 ethnic Armenians then living in Azerbaijan, 330,000 fled and 
gained refugee status in Armenia. The majority of the rest took refuge 
in Russia, with small numbers remaining in Azerbaijan.
    The National Assembly passed a law on citizenship in 1996 that 
provides for refugees of Armenian ethnicity to gain citizenship, 
provided they are stateless and have resided in the country for the 
past 3 years. In 1998 the Government implemented regulations for the 
law and began new efforts to encourage refugees to accept Armenian 
citizenship. In January the Government decided to allow refugees to 
naturalize when registered under their factual residence (the residence 
at which the refugee actually resides), and in March the refugee law 
was adopted by the National Assembly. During the final months of the 
year, the Government established a new system at the local level, 
making the acquisition of citizenship easier for refugees. As a result, 
an increased number of refugees chose to accept citizenship: from 
August through November, 6,473 refugees received citizenship, compared 
with a total of 7,200 total in 1998. However, a government report at 
year's end said that most refugees are still reluctant to become 
citizens, fearing the loss of free housing, military service 
exemptions, and other benefits accorded refugees.
    The Government cooperates with the Office of the U.N. High 
Commissioner for refugees and other humanitarian organizations in 
assisting ethnic Armenian refugees. The newly passed refugee law has 
provisions for granting refugee and asylee status in accordance with 
the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 
1967 Protocol. The Government respects the right of first asylum. 
During the year, at least one Sudanese was granted asylum based on fear 
of religious prosecution if he returned to Sudan.
    Border officials have no training on asylum issues. In some cases, 
persons denied permission for legal residence are subjected to fines 
for illegal residence when they attempt to depart the country. There 
were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where they 
feared persecution.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to 
        Change Their Government
    Serious flaws in the 1998 presidential election continued to 
restrict the constitutional ability of citizens to change their 
government peacefully, as had the previous Government's manipulation of 
the 1996 presidential election. Serious breaches of the election law 
and numerous irregularities in the 1995 parliamentary elections, and 
the 1996 and 1998 presidential elections resulted in a lack of public 
confidence in the integrity of the overall election process.
    In both rounds of the 1998 presidential elections, OSCE observers 
witnessed very substantial irregularities and concluded that the 
elections seriously challenged international democratic norms in regard 
to most key criteria. There were unusually high voter turnouts in 
certain areas, particularly in the second round, and these increases 
corresponded directly to high vote percentages for then Acting 
President Kocharian. Based on detailed analysis of the results tracked 
by observer reports in certain districts, it appears that ballot box 
stuffing, discrepancies in vote counts, a large number of unauthorized 
persons in polling stations, and other fraud perpetrated by local power 
structures inflated the number of votes for Kocharian by well over 
100,000 votes in the second round, which he won by approximately 
290,000 votes. Some military units were compelled to vote without 
exception for Kocharian, and officials used pressure to encourage a 
large turnout for the ``official'' candidate. Voters enjoyed a full 
spectrum of choices among candidates; all presidential candidates were 
provided opportunities to present themselves to the electorate through 
the provision of free and paid access to state media. However, state 
television, the most influential single source of information, provided 
coverage biased heavily in favor of the acting president. The electoral 
process fell far short of the authorities' commitments to their 
citizens. There were no legal consequences for electoral fraud. The 
Government pursued only minor violations and no penalties were 
announced. There was no criminal investigation of the amply documented 
ballot box stuffing.
    The May parliamentary elections showed continued improvement toward 
compliance with OSCE commitments, but still failed to meet 
international standards. Nonetheless, during the election, observers 
from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office 
for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) noted 
improvements in the electoral framework and the political environment. 
Freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and freedom of expression 
were respected during the campaign. The previously banned party ARF-
Dashnaksutyun reentered political activity in 1998. The May 30 
elections took place under a new electoral code that represented a 
substantial improvement compared with previous legislation and 
incorporated recommendations of international organizations. For 
example the code provides for the accreditation of domestic nonpartisan 
observers. It abolishes one level of election bureaucracy (the 
community election commissions) and provides for the courts to address 
electoral complaints during the campaign rather than after results are 
announced.
    However, election administration was uneven on election day. In 
many precincts, election officials, candidates' proxies, and domestic 
observers worked together to provide transparent voting and counting 
procedures. The areas of most concern witnessed by OSCE/ODIHR observers 
included the poor quality of the voter lists, which often were outdated 
or inaccurate; mistakes in registration; voting by military personnel; 
problems in the formation of the election commissions and the status of 
their members; and the presence of unauthorized personnel in precincts 
during voting and counting procedures. Thousands of voters had to 
appeal to local courts on election day in order to cast their votes, 
after finding that their names had been left off local voter lists. 
Opposition parties such as the National Democratic Union, the Self-
Determination Union, the Communist Party, Hayrenik, and Azatutuyun 
criticized the exclusion of numerous residents from the lists. The 
Central Election Commission blamed the omissions on the negligence of 
some civil servants. Twelve criminal cases related to parliamentary 
election fraud, involving 16 persons, remain under investigation by the 
Prosecutor General's office at year's end.
    In the May parliamentary elections, many observers witnessed 
soldiers closely supervised by their commanding officers and left alone 
for a few minutes to cast ballots; in some cases, soldiers were 
instructed to vote for the Unity Alliance. In addition press reports 
and a number of election observers noted that supporters of many 
candidates offered both monetary and other inducements to voters to 
encourage votes for their candidate.
    In the October municipal elections, the three major problems were: 
the politicization of election commissions, obsolete or incorrect voter 
lists, and the use of old seals (the election law mandates that new 
ones be provided by regional election commissions for each election, as 
a check on ballot box stuffing), presumably because the funds were 
lacking to buy new seals.
    Four districts of Yerevan held local by-elections on July 11. In 
the Achapniak district, violence erupted when armed supporters of one 
of the candidates beat and fired upon supporters of another candidate. 
The Central Elections Commission suspended this vote and declared it 
invalid. A criminal investigation was launched, which resulted in the 
arrest of 14 persons; the police still are seeking 10 more persons 
allegedly involved in the Achapniak violence. Those arrested are being 
prosecuted, but at year's end, the accused were free on bail and were 
not brought to trial due to continuances requested by their attorneys. 
The by-election in Achapniak was rescheduled 6 weeks later. Neither of 
the candidates whose followers were involved in the original violence 
ran in the rescheduled election, although they were not barred from 
doing so. The election took place without incident.
    Further improvements were made to the electoral framework and 
election administration for the October 24 municipal elections of 
community mayors and councils of elders. Candidate proxies, media, 
domestic observers, and international observers were entitled to 
monitor all stages of the election process; however, international 
observers did not monitor all stages. Shortly before the election, an 
amendment addressing procedures for military personnel to participate 
in municipal elections was passed, restricting military voting to the 
place of the soldier's permanent residence. This amendment, in 
practice, prevents a majority of the military from voting, as many 
soldiers are stationed far from their permanent residences and cannot 
obtain leave to return home to vote.
    On October 16, the Constitutional Court struck down the Law on 
Local Self-government and the Law on Refugees, which prohibited 
refugees with permanent residence (``propiska'') in Armenia from 
participating in municipal elections, concluding that they were in 
conflict with the Constitution and provisions of the electoral code. 
The Constitutional Court decision gave refugees with permanent 
residence the right to vote in such municipal elections. Nevertheless, 
by presidential decree, municipal elections were postponed in 
communities where refugees make up more than 50 percent of the 
population.
    Mayors and other community heads, in conjunction with relevant 
authorities, updated and significantly improved the voter lists before 
the October 24 municipal elections. As a result, the number of citizens 
appealing for inclusion on voter lists in the Court of First Instance 
was reduced significantly. Council of Europe observers described the 
October 24 election as free and fair; however, the observers noted 
several minor irregularities, including use of previously used seals 
(the law provides that new ones should be provided for each election as 
a check on ballot box stuffing) and defects in the voter lists. 
However, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the newspaper 
Haykakan Zhamanak, few parties fielded candidates in the elections 
other than the two progovernment coalition parties. The nonpartisan, 
professionally trained Armenian election observers from ``It's Your 
Choice'' highlighted serious flaws in the distribution of power within 
election commissions, and inaccurate voting lists, noting that ``many 
voters whose names were not on the lists, out of weariness and 
frustration, did not appeal to the court and thus could not exercise 
their constitutional right.'' This group's election report suggests 
that there were only serious multiparty contests in less than one-third 
of the precincts.
    The Government recently confirmed its decision to postpone a 
national census until 2001 for budgetary reasons. This has raised 
political concerns about the integrity of the process that is to create 
new electoral districts, since existing voter rolls and other 
population records are in some areas out-of-date and seriously flawed.
    Under the Constitution, the President appoints the Prime Minister 
and makes the final selection of qualified candidates for judgeships. 
The Constitution provides for independent legislative and judicial 
branches, but in practice these branches are not insulated from 
political pressure from the executive branch.
    The Government appoints the 10 regional governors (marzpets) and 
the mayor of Yerevan. The Constitution gives local communities the 
right to elect local authorities. However, local elected officials have 
limited powers and are overshadowed in practice by the appointed 
governors, who can remove them from office.
    In compliance with the Constitution, the newly elected National 
Assembly operates as a full-time Parliament. It consists of 131 
deputies; 56 are elected on a proportional basis and 75 on a district-
by-district majority basis. Regular sessions are held twice a year: the 
first from mid-September to mid-December; and the second from early 
February until mid-June. Given the press of legislative business 
connected with the total reform of the legal system, special sessions 
frequently are called, but may not last more than 6 days. Following the 
deaths of the speaker and his two deputies in the October 27 terrorist 
attack, the National Assembly elected a new speaker and deputies on 
November 2 according to established constitutional procedures.
    There are no legal restrictions on the participation of women and 
minorities in government and politics; however, due to traditional 
social attitudes, both groups are underrepresented in all branches of 
government. There are no female cabinet ministers. Only 4 of the 131 
deputies in the Parliament are women. There are no minority 
representatives in the Cabinet or in the Parliament.
Section 4. Governmental Attitudes Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    There are several human rights NGO's that are active and operate 
openly, criticize abuses publicly, and publish their findings on 
government human rights violations. In general public access to 
information on human rights cases usually is adequate, with extensive 
media coverage of significant court cases, and more openness by 
civilian and military prosecutors. During the year, one domestic human 
rights group, the Armenia Helsinki Association for the first time was 
allowed to visit death row and talk with convicts sentenced to death.
    In February a Ministry of Defense official warned a member of an 
organization dealing with conscripts to desist from cooperating with 
international human rights organizations. In March Mikael Danielyan, 
chair of the Armenia Helsinki Association, was accused of making 
unfounded accusations after he complained about the refusal of the 
Ministry of Internal Affairs to grant access to pretrial detention 
facilities for monitoring; Danielyan had submitted written requests and 
made repeated attempts to gain access for over a year.
    An office created by the Prosecutor General in July 1997 to 
communicate with international observers was responsive to requests for 
information, although information about criminal cases stemming from 
elections remained relatively general and incomplete. International 
observers requesting information on election-related complaints 
received more precise and detailed information on their resolution.
    In 1998 President Kocharian appointed a prominent opposition 
politician to head a new human rights commission within the President's 
office. The commission exists essentially as a reference bureau and has 
no formal legal powers. However, it has had a modest impact in getting 
authorities to review official actions on social issues ranging from 
apartment allocations to police behavior, in some cases winning 
official reconsideration. It refers such cases to the appropriate 
agency, but it does not follow up on specific issues.
    The Government has permitted monitoring of human rights by the 
Council of Europe and by the ICRC, which retains full access to 
civilian detention facilities.
    The Government invited an OSCE/ODIHR election observer mission to 
observe the May parliamentary elections, and provided domestic and 
international observers with unimpeded countrywide access to both the 
May and October elections (see Section 3). Current electoral law allows 
local observer organizations to monitor parliamentary but not 
presidential elections, and such local organizations reported no 
impediments to election observation during the year.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language or Social Status
    The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, 
religion, disability, language, or social status. However, cultural and 
economic factors prevent women, ethnic and religious minorities, and 
persons with disabilities from participating fully in public life. The 
religion law discriminates against some religious groups.
    Women.--There is no specific law banning violence against women, 
and few cases of rape, spousal abuse, or other violence against women 
were reported; however, their number is likely higher than the 
statistics indicate. Domestic violence cases usually are not reported 
to the police, and women are not protected from it. There is at least 
one nongovernmental organization that provides shelter and assistance 
to battered women; it is located in the Gyumri area, but embarrassment 
and concerns for family honor make the problem particularly sensitive 
and difficult to quantify. Even womens' groups and health professionals 
decline to offer specific figures, but do not indicate that such 
violence is especially common.
    In the first 11 months of the year, the Prosecutor's Office 
registered 18 cases of rape. The Prosecutor General's Office also 
reported nine attempted murders against women involving serious 
injuries. The law (the old Soviet Criminal Code) cites specific 
punishments for rape, forced abortion, forbidding a woman from 
marrying, and discrimination in hiring due to pregnancy.
    Prostitution is not illegal, and according to anecdotal evidence, 
most prostitutes stopped by police for street-walking are simply sent 
to a hospital or physician for a medical check-up. Armenian women work 
as prostitutes in the Middle East, and there have been reports of 
trafficking in women and girls in the past, but there were no reports 
during the year (see Section 6.f.).
    Males often play a dominant role in many societal institutions. In 
the workplace, women receive equal pay for equal work, but generally 
are not afforded the same professional opportunities given to men and 
often are relegated to more menial or low-skill jobs. The 1972 Law on 
Employment prohibits discrimination in employment, but the extremely 
high unemployment rate makes it difficult to gauge how effectively the 
law has been implemented to prevent discrimination. Formerly, labor 
unions protected women's rights in the workplace at least nominally, 
but the current weakness of unions (see Section 6.a.) likely has 
rendered them even less effective in this role. According to official 
statistics, women make up 65 percent of those officially registered as 
unemployed. Currently there are more women receiving university and 
postgraduate education than men. This statistic may be accounted for in 
part by the Nagorno-Karabakh situation, which necessitates a high 
number of males in military service, and in part by the economic 
situation, which has caused males to emigrate in search of employment.
    Children.--The Government does not have the economic means to 
provide fully for the welfare of children. Education is free, 
universal, and compulsory through age 16, but many facilities are 
impoverished and in poor condition, and teachers are forced to tutor 
pupils privately to supplement salaries that are low and irregularly 
paid. Some teachers are known to demand bribes from parents in return 
for good or passing grades for their children. Free children's health 
care is available for treatment of some diseases and for emergency 
cases, but it is often of poor quality, with an increasing trend toward 
overt or concealed payment of fees for service.
    Girls and boys receive equal educational opportunities. The 
Government focuses its efforts regarding children's rights and welfare 
on measures to insulate large families--those with four or more 
children--from the effects of the country's current difficult 
circumstances. The Government similarly directs foreign humanitarian 
aid programs toward larger families. Despite social programs, the 
problem of street children remains significant. However, the family 
tradition remains strong, and child abuse does not appear to be a 
serious problem.
    People with Disabilities.--The Constitution provides for the right 
to social security in the event of disability. The 1993 Law on Invalids 
provides for the social, political, and individual rights of the 
disabled, but does not mandate the provision of accessibility for the 
disabled. During the year, expenditures for the health sector were cut 
by approximately $4.8 million (2.6 billion drams) from the projected 
level, which affected the disabled, who are supposed to be treated 
free. According to the former Minister of Social Security, the social 
sector budget also is being cut by approximately $550,000 (300 million 
drams). In the current economic circumstances and in an effort to meet 
international financial institution guidelines on reduction of the 
budget deficit, the Government has had difficulty fulfilling its 
commitments in this area.
    The Government's enforcement of the rights of the disabled remains 
rudimentary. Legal safeguards for those with psychiatric problems are 
inadequate to protect patients' rights. There is societal 
discrimination against the disabled. Hospitals, residential care, and 
other facilities for the seriously disabled do not meet international 
norms. A local human rights group alleges that there are cases in which 
security authorities use confinement in mental institutions as an 
alternative form of detention.
    Religious Minorities.--There was no reported violence against 
minority religious groups. However, newer religious groups are viewed 
with suspicion, especially by some clergy in the Armenian Apostolic 
Church and their supporters in the bureaucracy.
    A relatively high percentage of members of some religious 
minorities, particularly Hare Khrishnas but evangelical Christians as 
well, joined the wave of emigration from the country, for social, 
economic, and philosophical reasons. Despite the Government's previous 
pledge to apprehend alleged members of the Yerkrapah Union political 
faction who staged a series of destructive attacks against a dozen 
religious groups in 1995, the authorities still had taken no steps to 
bring the perpetrators to justice.
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities.--The population is around 94 
percent ethnic Armenian. The Government does not discriminate against 
the small, officially recognized ``national'' communities, although the 
economic and social situation of such groups has deteriorated 
substantially since independence in 1991. Groups that the Government 
includes in this category are Russians, Jews, Kurds, Yezidis, 
Georgians, Greeks, and Assyrians. As a result of the protracted 
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, there is no significant Azeri minority (see 
Section 2.d.). Several hundred Azeris or persons of mixed Azeri 
heritage still living in the country maintain a low profile in the face 
of societal discrimination.
    The Constitution grants national minorities the right to preserve 
their cultural traditions and language, and the 1992 law on language 
provides linguistic minorities with the right to publish and study in 
their native language. There are token publications in minority 
languages, but the Government has devoted minimal resources to 
maintaining minority language schools. The large network of Russian-
language schools has dwindled in recent years. In practice virtually 
all students, including members of the Yezidi and Greek communities, 
now attend Armenian-language schools, with very limited classes 
available in their mother tongues. In the Yezidi community, a high 
percentage of pupils do not attend school, partly for family economic 
reasons and partly because of discrimination by ethnic Armenian 
students and teachers.
    Yezidi leaders continued to complain that police and local 
authorities subject their community to discrimination. The Yezidis, 
whose number is estimated at 60,000 by Yezidi leaders, speak a Kurdish 
dialect and practice a traditional, non-Christian, non-Muslim religion 
with elements derived from Zoroastrianism, Islam, and animism. They 
cite numerous incidents of unfair adjudication of land, water, and 
grazing disputes; nonreceipt of privatized agricultural land; an 
unusually high number of beatings of Yezidi conscripts in the army; and 
lack of police response to even serious crimes committed against 
Yezidis. The Yezidi complaints likely reflect societal discrimination 
as well as the more general problem of poorly functioning local 
government bodies. The Yezidi leaders met in July 1998 with the 
President's human rights commission with which and received an 
affirmation that the Government would improve the situation; however, 
the Government took no action during the year.
Section 6. Worker Rights
    a. The Right of Association.--The Constitution provides employees 
with the right to form and join trade unions and the right to strike. 
The Constitution stipulates that the right to form associations--
including political parties and trade unions--may be limited with 
respect to persons serving in the armed services and law enforcement 
agencies. A 1993 presidential decree prohibits the Government and other 
employers from retaliating against strikers and labor leaders, but 
workers have little confidence in this protection. In practice labor 
organization remains weak due to high unemployment and the weak 
economy. Workers have neither the financial resources to maintain a 
strike nor enforceable legal protection against retaliation, and 
existing unions play a relatively passive role. However, there were no 
reports of retaliation against strikers or labor leaders. The 
purportedly independent labor federation created in December 1997 
continues in operation, but took no action during the year.
    The absence of real unions and of accurate employment data 
precludes a reliable estimate of the percentage of the work force that 
is unionized.
    Unions are free to affiliate with international organizations, but 
none did so during the year.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--Collective 
bargaining is not practiced. The Constitution provides all citizens 
with the right to a just wage no lower than the minimum set by the 
Government. Although the 1992 Law on Employment provides for the right 
to organize and bargain collectively, voluntary and direct negotiations 
do not take place between unions and employers without the 
participation of the Government because most large employers remain 
under state control. The near collapse of major industrial production 
has undercut the organization of labor unions.
    The Government encourages profitable factories to establish their 
own pay scales. Factory directorates generally set the pay scales 
without consultation with employees. The Arbitration Commission 
adjudicates wage and other labor disputes.
    There are no export processing zones.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--The Constitution and 
the 1992 Law on Employment prohibit forced and bonded labor, including 
that by children, and it generally is not known to occur. There were 
reports of trafficking in women and girls in the past; however, there 
were no such reports during the year (see Section 6.f.). This provision 
is enforced by the local community councils, unemployment offices, and, 
as a final board of appeal, the Arbitration Commission.
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--According to the 1992 Law on Employment, 16 years is the 
minimum age for employment. Children may work from the age of 14 with 
the permission of a medical commission and the relevant labor union 
board. The Law on Employment is enforced by local community councils, 
unemployment offices, and, as a final board of appeal, the Arbitration 
Commission. Forced or bonded labor by children is prohibited, and it is 
not known to occur.
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--The Government sets the minimum 
wage by decree. In October 1998, Parliament quintupled the national 
minimum wage to less than $10 (5,000 drams) per month; however, the 
minimum wage is insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for 
a worker and family. The majority of the population lives below the 
officially recognized poverty line as a result of economic dislocations 
caused by the breakup of the Soviet Union, the 1988 earthquake, the 
conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and the resulting blockade by Azerbaijan 
and Turkey, and disruptions in trade. However, a significant amount of 
economic activity takes place unrecorded and untaxed by local 
authorities. The extent to which this improves the overall economic 
situation is unknown.
    The majority of industrial enterprises are either idle or operating 
at a fraction of their capacity. Some furloughed workers still are 
receiving minimal partial compensation from their enterprises, but most 
are no longer receiving any payment if they are not working. The 
standard legal workweek is 40 hours; many persons work multiple jobs.
    The Constitution provides citizens with the right to clean and safe 
work places, but Soviet-era occupational and safety standards remain in 
force. Labor legislation from 1988 places responsibility on the 
employer and the management of each firm to ensure ``healthy and 
normal'' labor conditions for employees, but it provides no definition 
of healthy and normal. The employment situation is such that workers 
are reluctant to complain about hazardous working conditions due to the 
risk of losing their jobs.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--The legal code does not prohibit 
specifically trafficking in persons, although it does prohibit 
exploitation by force of persons for financial gain. The Criminal Code 
specifically prohibits the keeping of what are generally considered to 
be brothels. Armenian women work as prostitutes in the Middle East, and 
there have been reports of trafficking in women and girls in the past. 
There are reports that older girls in a local orphanage were approached 
with offers to engage in prostitution, either locally or abroad. The 
Criminal Code does not forbid prostitution. The 10 cases of trafficking 
in women or procuring currently in court are being prosecuted under the 
Criminal Code prohibition on brothels.
                                 ______
                                 

                                AUSTRIA

    Austria is a constitutional democracy with a federal parliamentary 
form of government. Citizens choose their representatives in periodic, 
free, and fair multiparty elections. The judiciary is independent.
    The police are subordinated to the executive and judicial 
authorities. The national police maintain internal security. The army 
is responsible for external security. The police are generally well 
trained and disciplined, although some members of the police were 
responsible for instances of human rights abuses.
    Austria's highly developed, market-based economy, with its mix of 
technologically advanced industry, modern agriculture, and tourism, 
affords its citizens a high standard of living.
    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. There were some reports of abuse by 
police, which involved occasional beatings but mainly involved verbal 
abuse and threats. Legislation went into effect to increase protection 
for women against domestic violence, which has been a problem and is 
considered to be greatly underreported. Trafficking in women for 
prostitution is a problem.
                        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 killings.
    In May an unsuccessful Nigerian asylum applicant died while being 
deported; his hands and feet were cuffed and his mouth was taped shut 
to control his violent behavior (see Section 2.d.).
    On September 15, police shot and killed Horst Ludwig Meyer, a 
suspected member of the German terrorist group Red Army Faction, when 
he opened fire on them near Vienna. Meyer and an accomplice are 
believed to have killed a German diplomat, Gerold von Braunmuhl, and, 
in a separate attack, German businessman Heinz Beckurts and his driver, 
in 1986. Meyer and his accomplice also are accused of killing a 
Deutsche Bank spokesman, Alfred Herrenhausen, in 1989 and involvement 
in a 1988 attack against a NATO installation in Spain. His accomplice, 
Andrea Klump, was arrested and subsequently extradited to Germany on 
December 23.
    In March Franz Fuchs was convicted for killing four Roma in 1995 
and injuring 15 other persons in a letter bomb campaign between 1993 
and 1997 (see Section 5).
    A French appeals court was considering an Austrian government 
request for the extradition of the terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez 
(alias ``Carlos the Jackal'') at year's end. Austria formally has 
sought the extradition of ``Carlos'' since French authorities captured 
him in 1994. He is wanted on charges of manslaughter, kidnaping, and 
blackmail in connection with the terrorist attacks at Vienna's OPEC 
headquarters in December 1975.
    b. Disappearance.--There were no reports of politically motivated 
disappearances.
    c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment.--Although the Constitution prohibits such practices, 
government statistics for 1998 showed 356 complaints against federal 
police officials for ``unjustified use of force,'' compared with 321 in 
1997. Of the 356 complaints, 288 resulted in investigations (compared 
with 339 in 1997). The number of suspensions dropped from 31 in 1997 to 
22 in 1998. Four police officials were convicted of excessive use of 
force in 1998; two officers were convicted in 1999. Of the 158 cases 
pending in 1998, 44 have been dismissed due to lack of evidence; the 
other cases remain pending. Types of abuse ranged from slander to 
kicking and hitting, resulting mainly in bruising. Some of the violence 
appears to be racially motivated.
    In May an unsuccessful Nigerian asylum applicant died while being 
deported; his hands and feet were cuffed and his mouth was taped shut 
to control his violent behavior. Two of the three police officers who 
accompanied him were suspended and a committee was created with the 
goal of ensuring that the police and gendarmerie respect human rights 
while carrying out their duties (see Section 2.d.).
    According to some witnesses, in March a dark-skinned French citizen 
suspected of dealing drugs, known only as Mohammed S., allegedly was 
beaten by police officers during an arrest. Witnesses alleged that two 
officers kicked, hit, and sprayed the man with pepper spray after he 
had been immobilized. After a short period of time, additional officers 
and an ambulance arrived and the suspect was taken to the hospital. 
Minister of the Interior Karl Schloegl invited the witnesses to tell 
him personally what happened and stated that his Ministry, the district 
attorney, and police management would investigate the matter. Several 
other witnesses later came forward and contradicted the earlier 
testimony. Charges were filed against the police officers, but were 
dropped in July due to lack of evidence.
    On March 16, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial 
Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern regarding reports of serious 
cases of police brutality towards persons of foreign origin and ethnic 
minorities.
    Prison conditions meet minimum international standards and the 
Government permits prison visits by human rights monitors. In 
individual cases, investigating judges or prison directors have 
jurisdiction over questions of access to the defendant.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--The Constitution 
prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and the Government observes 
this prohibition.
    In criminal cases the law provides for investigative or pretrial 
detention for up to 48 hours; however, in cases of charges of 
``aggressive behavior'' an investigative judge may decide within that 
period to grant a prosecution request for detention of up to 2 years 
pending completion of an investigation. The grounds required for such 
investigative detention are specified in the law, as are conditions for 
bail. The investigative judge is required to evaluate an investigative 
detention after 2 weeks, 1 month, and every 2 months after the arrest.
    Forced exile is not practiced.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--The Constitution provides for an 
independent judiciary, and the Government respects this provision in 
practice. The judiciary provides citizens with a fair and efficient 
judicial process.
    There were no reports of political prisoners.
    f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--The Constitution prohibits such practices, government 
authorities generally respect these prohibitions, and violations are 
subject to effective legal sanction.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
    a. Freedom of Speech and Press.--The Constitution provides for 
freedom of the press, and the Government generally respects this right 
in practice, although stringent slander laws tend to discourage reports 
of police brutality. Publications may be removed from circulation if 
they violate legal provisions concerning morality or public security, 
but such cases are extremely rare.
    The government monopoly in television and national radio is 
gradually being dismantled. A 1993 law permitted licensing of regional 
private radio stations, but legal challenges by unsuccessful applicants 
for licenses delayed implementation of the law. Rewritten radio 
frequency rules went into effect in April 1998. As of July, there were 
51 private radio stations. Second quarter figures show that while 71.3 
percent of citizens listen to the state-run radio stations, 20.1 
percent listen to private stations.
    Academic freedom is respected.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The Constitution 
provides for freedom of assembly and association, except for Nazi 
organizations and activities (an exception stipulated also in the 
Austrian State Treaty of 1955). The Law on the Formation of 
Associations states that permission to form an organization may be 
denied if it is apparent that the organization will pursue the illegal 
activities of a prohibited organization.
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution provides for freedom of 
religion of individuals and the Government generally respects this 
right in practice. However, the status of religious organizations is 
governed by the 1874 ``Law on Recognition'' of churches and by a 
January 1998 law establishing the status of ``confessional 
communities.'' Religious recognition under the 1874 law has wide-
ranging implications, for example, the authority to participate in the 
state-collected religious taxation program, to engage in religious 
education, and to import religious workers to act as ministers, 
missionaries, or teachers. Although in the past nonrecognized religious 
groups have had problems obtaining resident permits for foreign 
religious workers, administrative procedures adopted in 1997 have 
addressed this problem in part. Officially, 75.3 percent of the 
population are Roman Catholic, and there are 11 other recognized 
religious organizations.
    Religious organizations may be divided into three different legal 
categories (listed in descending order of status): officially 
recognized religious societies, religious confessional communities, and 
clubs.
    Under the law, religious societies have ``public law corporation'' 
status. This status permits religious societies to engage in a number 
of public or quasi-public activities that are denied to other religious 
organizations. The Constitution singles out religious societies for 
special recognition. Among the many benefits provided to religious 
societies that are not granted to other religious organizations are 
state subsidies for religious teachers (at both public and private 
schools), and access of the clergy to hospitals, prisons, and the 
military chaplaincy.
    Previously, some nonrecognized religious groups were able to 
organize as legal entities or associations, although this route has not 
been available universally. Some groups even have done so while 
applying for recognition as religious communities under the 1874 law. 
Many such applications for recognition have languished in the Education 
Ministry, in some cases for years. Following years of bureaucratic 
delay and an administrative court order instructing the Education 
Ministry to render a decision, in 1997 the Ministry denied the request 
for recognition of Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah's Witnesses appealed 
this decision to the Constitutional Court.
    In January 1998, a law went into effect that allows nonrecognized 
religious groups to seek official status as confessional communities 
without the fiscal and educational privileges available to recognized 
religions. Religious confessional communities, once they are recognized 
officially as such by the Government, have juridical standing, which 
permits them to engage in such activities as purchasing real estate in 
their own names, contracting for goods and services, and other 
activities. To apply groups must have 300 members and submit to the 
Government their written statutes, describing the goals, rights, and 
obligations of members, membership regulations, officials, and 
financing. Groups also must submit a written version of their religious 
doctrine, which must differ from that of any existing religion 
recognized under the 1874 law or registered under the new law, for a 
determination that their basic beliefs do not violate public security, 
public order, health and morals, or the rights and freedoms of 
citizens. A religious organization that seeks to obtain this new status 
is subject to a 6-month waiting period from the time of application to 
the Ministry of Education and Culture. The new law also sets out 
additional criteria for eventual recognition according to the 1874 law, 
such as a 20-year observation period (at least 10 of which must be as a 
group organized as a confessional community under the new law) and 
membership equaling at least two one-thousandths of the country's 
population. Many religious groups and independent congregations do not 
meet the 300-member threshold for registration under the new law. Only 
Jehovah's Witnesses currently meet the higher membership requirement 
for recognition under the 1874 law.
    In a decision issued in March 1998, the Constitutional Court voided 
the Education Ministry's decision on Jehovah's Witnesses and ordered a 
new decision based on the January law on the Status of Confessional 
Communities. In July 1998, Jehovah's Witnesses received the status of a 
confessional community. According to the 1998 law, the group is now 
subject to a 10-year observation period before they are eligible for 
recognition.
    As of July 10, 1998, the Education Ministry had granted the status 
of ``confessional community'' to eight religious groups, including for 
example, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists, and Seventh-Day Adventists. The 
Church of Scientology and the Hindu Mandir Association withdrew their 
applications. Later, the Hindu Mandir Association reapplied as the 
Hindu religious community and was granted confessional community status 
in December 1998. The Ministry rejected the application of the Sahaja 
Yoga group; in 1998 the group appealed the decision to the 
Constitutional Court.
    Proponents of the law describe it as an opportunity for religious 
groups to become officially registered as religious organizations, 
providing them with a government ``quality seal.'' However, numerous 
religious groups not recognized by the State, as well as some religious 
law experts dismiss the purported benefits of obtaining status under 
the law and have complained that the law's additional criteria for 
recognition under the 1874 law obstruct claims to recognition and 
formalize a second-class status for nonrecognized groups. Experts have 
questioned the law's constitutionality.
    After the Education Ministry granted Jehovah's Witnesses the status 
of Confessional Community, the group immediately in 1998 requested that 
it be recognized as a religious group under the 1874 law. The Education 
Ministry denied the application, on the basis that, as a confessional 
community, Jehovah's Witnesses would need to submit to the required 10-
year observation period. The group has appealed this decision to the 
Constitutional Court, arguing that a 10-year waiting period is 
unconstitutional. A decision is expected in 2000.
    Also in 1998, Jehovah's Witnesses filed a complaint with the 
European Court for Human Rights, arguing that the group has not yet 
been granted full status as a religious entity under the 1874 law, 
despite having made numerous attempts over more than two decades.
    Religious associations that do not qualify for either religious 
society or confessional community status may apply to become ``clubs.'' 
This status is granted relatively freely, although clubs do not have 
legal standing and are unable to purchase property, churches, or engage 
in other activities permitted to the other two legal categories.
    During the year, the Government continued its information campaign 
against religious sects considered potentially harmful to individuals 
and society. As part of the campaign, the Family Ministry established a 
new Federal Office on Sects, which is responsible for collecting and 
providing information on sects active in the country. While the law 
stipulates that the Office has independent status, the head of the 
Office is appointed and supervised by the Minister for Environment, 
Youth, and Family, and the Office is supported by public funds. In 
September the Family Ministry released a second edition of the brochure 
entitled ``Sects: Knowledge Protects,'' describing numerous 
nonrecognized religious groups in negative terms found offensive by 
many of the groups listed. The brochure lists Jehovah's Witnesses, 
despite its confessional community status.
    Members of the Unification Church and the Church of Scientology 
complained of discrimination and harassment by the police and the 
public.
    In April the conservative Austrian People's Party (OVP) convention 
formally adopted a decision made by the party's executive board in 1997 
that party membership is incompatible with membership in a sect. This 
policy led to the resignation of a local OVP official in 1997. Shortly 
after this decision, a member of the provincial parliament of Upper 
Austria called for a requirement that civil service applicants and 
employees sign a declaration that they are not members of the Church of 
Scientology and that they do not support the Church's goals. False 
statements would be grounds for disqualification or rejection from the 
applicants' employment pool. Any person who already was employed and 
found to be a member of the Church of Scientology would be dismissed. 
The requirement had not been made law at year's end.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--The Government does not restrict 
movement, including emigration. Citizens who leave the country have the 
right to return at any time.
    Austria has signed the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status 
of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, but subscribes to the ``safe 
country'' concept, which requires asylum seekers who enter illegally to 
depart and seek refugee status from outside the country. In response to 
continuing criticism by the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for 
Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations, the Government 
passed an amendment to the 1991 asylum law in 1997 designed to bring 
some improvements to the ``safe country'' rule and the appellate 
procedure. The Government cooperates with the UNHCR and other 
humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. The UNHCR and other 
humanitarian organizations generally approve of the 1997 asylum law, 
but there is still some dissatisfaction with its implementation. A 
January amendment to the 1997 asylum law, which authorizes the Ministry 
of Interior to draw up a ``white list'' of ``safe third countries,'' 
drew sharp criticism from human rights and refugee advocacy groups. 
There is widespread opposition to this concept based on the fear that 
it compromises the principle of individual investigation of claims. 
This principle was upheld in a February ruling of the Administrative 
Court, which reversed a denial of asylum made on the basis of the 
``safe third country'' rule. Individuals found to be bona fide refugees 
by government authorities are not sent back to the countries from which 
they fled. In 1997 the Government established an appeal body for 
refugees--the Independent Federal Asylum Senate. Asylum seekers whose 
claims have been rejected by the Federal Asylum Office may appeal to 
this body; the Administrative Court is the court of last instance.
    Of the estimated 95,000 Bosnian refugees who arrived between April 
1992 and July 1993, the Government provided temporary protected status 
(TPS), similar to first asylum, to 47,000, which made them eligible to 
receive government assistance without having to file asylum 
applications. Most of the other 48,000 refugees were deemed to have 
other means of support, either from families already present in Austria 
or from nongovernmental organizations (NGO's). The overwhelming number 
of all Bosnian refugees has been integrated into the labor market. They 
now hold ``gastarbeiter'' status, which means that their residency 
permit is evaluated each year on the basis of the country's overall 
labor demand. Many of the refugees have chosen voluntarily to return to 
their homeland, a process that still continues. In 1997 4,200 Bosnians 
returned to their homeland; a similar number returned by the end of 
1998. In December 482 Bosnian refugees still remained in the country in 
TPS, and still received public assistance. In July 1998, temporary 
residency rights for citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina were extended 
beyond the deadline of July 31, 1998 until the summer of 2000. TPS is 
reserved for those who cannot be absorbed readily as foreign labor or 
into the community, such as the elderly, the sick, traumatized persons, 
and illiterate persons.
    During the Kosovo crisis, Austria accepted an estimated 10,000 to 
15,000 refugees. A total of 5,080 Kosovar Albanians were evacuated 
directly from Macedonia and admitted to Austria under cover of TPS. 
Also, the immigration law was modified to allow Kosovar Albanians 
already in the country in a variety of statuses to extend their stay. 
In December approximately 1,593 Kosovar Albanians of the total of 5,080 
refugees under TPS remained in the country. They receive public 
assistance under a care program similar to the one set up during the 
Bosnian crisis. In December the deadline for the end of TPS for Kosovar 
Albanians was extended beyond December 31 to March 31, 2000, or July 
31, 2000, depending on the level of destruction of housing in the area 
of residence and other individual criteria. A new incentive program for 
voluntary returnees was developed. About 1,500 Kosovars are expected to 
stay in the country until March 31, 2000, while about 800 could extend 
their stay until July 31, 2000.
    Asylum applications more than doubled in 1998, from 6,719 in 1997 
to 13,805. In 1998 500 applications were accepted and 3,491 requests 
were denied, compared with 639 approvals and 7,286 denials in 1997. The 
1998 approval figure includes asylum seekers from the Federal Republic 
of Yugoslavia (FRY) (6,647), Iraq (1,963), Iran (950), Afghanistan 
(467), and India (472). A majority of asylum seekers are male. In the 
first half of the year requests for asylum more than doubled to 9,830 
from 4,526 in 1998. The increase is attributed to the Kosovo conflict: 
80 to 85 percent of asylum seekers from the FRY are Kosovar Albanians; 
about 55 percent are Kurds from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. Improved 
border controls resulting from the Government's full implementation of 
the Schengen Agreement in April 1997 also have led to an increase in 
asylum applications. Aliens who formerly used the country as merely a 
transit point are now filing asylum applications.
    On May 1, an unsuccessful Nigerian asylum applicant, Marcus 
Omofuma, died while being deported to Lagos via Sofia, Bulgaria. 
Omofuma's violent, uncooperative behavior led authorities to increase 
their normal escort from two to three immigration officials. Omafuma's 
hands and feet were cuffed so that he could not injure himself or 
others. Additionally, en route to Sofia, the officials taped his mouth 
shut to silence his loud outcries. Believing that the man had lost 
consciousness during the flight, the officials summoned a doctor after 
landing; the doctor pronounced Omofuma dead. A preliminary Bulgarian 
autopsy found that he had suffocated; a subsequent autopsy performed by 
an Austrian physician found that Omofuma's death was a result of a 
heart attack, brought on by extreme stress and a heart weakened by 
disease. The two doctors are expected to examine each others' reports 
in the hopes of arriving at an agreement as to the cause of death.
    Interior Minister Schloegl promised to review thoroughly internal 
procedures regarding deportations and temporarily suspended any 
deportations of individuals expected to behave violently, and turned 
the case over to the state prosecutor. Two of the three police officers 
who accompanied Omofuma were suspended. In June Schloegl announced the 
creation of a committee, composed of representatives from the Justice 
and Interior Ministries, as well as from NGO's, with the goal of 
ensuring that the police and gendarmerie respect human rights while 
carrying out their duties. Schloegl also announced a new policy 
requiring that all potentially violent individuals be deported via 
chartered aircraft, rather than on commercial flights. The first such 
chartered flight took place in late June. Schloegl stated that 
deportees being returned by air should only be accompanied by properly 
trained officials. The investigation into the Omofuma case was 
continuing at year's end, and the police officers remained suspended.
    Civil charges were filed on behalf of Omofuma's young daughter 
stating that Omofuma's human rights were violated. The case was first 
filed in the administrative appellate senate in the province of Lower 
Austria. The senate rejected the case, saying that it did not have 
jurisdiction, and that the case should be handled by the city of 
Vienna. The decision of the administrative appellate senate in Vienna 
was pending at year's end.
Section 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. Citizens exercise this right in practice through 
periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal 
suffrage. National elections were held on October 3, in which the 
Social Democrats won 65 seats in Parliament; the Freedom Party, 52; and 
the People's Party 52. Negotiations on forming a new coalition 
government were underway at year's end.
    Approximately 32 percent of the members of Parliament and 4 of 16 
cabinet members are women.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    A number of human rights groups operate without government 
restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human 
rights cases. In some cases, they have been dissatisfied with the 
information that the authorities have supplied in response to specific 
complaints.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language, or Social Status
    The law provides for protection against any of these kinds of 
discrimination in employment, provision of welfare benefits, and other 
matters, and the Government generally enforces its provisions 
effectively.
    Women.--Violence against women remains a problem. In June the 
Minister for Women's Affairs reported that an estimated 300,000 women 
are abused annually. Police and judges enforce laws against violence; 
however, less than 10 percent of abused women are estimated to file 
complaints. Overall, the Women's Ministry estimates that one-fifth of 
the country's 1.5 million adult women has suffered from violence in a 
relationship. Many public officials and the media considered this to be 
an extremely high figure, and as a result, legislators in July passed 
an amendment to the 1997 Law on the Protection Against Violence in the 
Family. This amendment extends the period during which police can expel 
abusive family members from family homes from 7 days to 2 weeks; in 
special cases, a court order can extend the period for up to 3 months. 
Between May 1997, when the violence protection law entered into force, 
and March, the interdiction to prevent abusive family members from 
returning home was applied in 4,478 cases. The Government also sponsors 
shelters and help lines for women. A 24-hour women's help line, as the 
first point of contact for abused women and children, was established 
in 1996 and has been used by 12,550 women.
    Trafficking in women is a problem (see Section 6.f.). While 
prostitution is legal, trafficking for the purposes of prostitution is 
illegal.
    Most legal restrictions on women's rights have been abolished. In 
1994 the European Court of Justice ruled that the country's law 
prohibiting women from working nights was not permissible and gave the 
Government until 2001 to adapt its legislation to gender-neutral 
European Union (EU) regulations. Legislation went into effect in 
January 1, 1998, requiring that collective bargaining units take action 
by 2001 to eliminate restrictions on nighttime work for women.
    In addition to the federal Women's Affairs Ministry, a federal 
Equality Commission and a federal Commissioner for Equal Treatment 
oversee laws prescribing equal treatment of men and women. Sixty 
percent of women between the ages of 15 and 60 are in the labor force. 
Despite substantial gains, women's incomes average 30 percent less than 
those of men.
    As of January 1, 1998, women were allowed to serve in the military 
voluntarily. On April 1, 1998, the first women began training. On 
December 1, 1998, the first women, both doctors, were taken into the 
military. The long-term expectation is that women may make up about 5 
percent of the military. As of June, there were a total of 73 female 
soldiers; in November there were 89. Of those, 12 women were pursuing 
the officer career track while 46 women were pursuing the 
noncommissioned officer (NCO) career track. The remaining 31 include 5 
medical doctors (4 of whom are already officers) and 26 women who are 
in the military strictly to train as high-level athletes. There are no 
restrictions on the type or location of assignments given to women. It 
was expected that approximately 12 more women would enter the military 
before the end of the year. The first females to complete a course of 
instruction in the NCO academy graduated in December.
    Although labor laws provide for equal treatment for women in the 
civil service, they remain underrepresented. To remedy this 
circumstance, a 1993 law requires hiring women of equivalent 
qualifications ahead of men in civil service areas in which less than 
40 percent of the employees are women; however, there are no penalties 
for failing to attain the 40 percent target.
    Women may be awarded compensation of up to 4 months' salary if 
discriminated against in promotions because of their sex. The Labor 
Court also can order employers to compensate victims of sexual 
harassment.
    Women's rights organizations are partly politically affiliated, and 
partly autonomous groups. In voicing their concerns, they receive wide 
public attention.
    Children.--Laws protect the vast majority of children's rights 
established in international conventions and in some respects go beyond 
them. Each provincial government and the federal Ministry for Youth and 
Family Affairs has an ``Ombudsperson for Children and Adolescents'' 
whose main function is to resolve complaints about violations of rights 
of children.
    While 9 years of education are mandatory for all children, 
beginning at age 6, the Government also provides free education through 
the level of technical or vocational programs or university. 
Educational opportunity is equal for girls and boys. Comprehensive, 
government-financed medical care is available for all children without 
regard to gender.
    There is no societal pattern of abuse against children, although 
heightened public awareness of abuse has led the Government to increase 
its efforts to monitor the issue and prosecute offenders. Reports of 
suspected sexual abuse of children in 1998 increased to 945, compared 
with 895 in 1997. The number of related convictions increased to 351 
from 314. The rest of the cases remain pending or were dismissed. The 
growing number of reported incidences of child abuse is considered a 
result of increased public awareness of the problem. According to the 
Penal Code, sexual intercourse between an adult and a child (under 14 
years of age) is punishable with a prison sentence of up to 10 years; 
in case of pregnancy of the victim, the sentence can be extended to up 
to 15 years.
    Stricter regulations on child pornography went into effect in 1997. 
Under the new laws, any citizen engaging in child pornography in a 
foreign country becomes punishable under Austrian law even if the 
actions are not punishable in the country where this violation was 
committed. The laws also entail more severe provisions for the 
possession, trading, and private viewing of pornographic materials. For 
example, exchanging videos is now illegal even if done privately rather 
than as a business transaction.
    In the context of its EU presidency, the Government advanced a 
multiyear plan to prevent misuse of the Internet. In February 1997 
authorities set up a 24-hour ``tip line'' for citizens to report leads 
on child pornography on the Internet and to lodge complaints. In 
December 1998, the Government announced its action plan to combat the 
promotion of child abuse and child pornography through the Internet.
    The Government cosponsored an international conference in Vienna 
from September 29 to October 1, on combating child pornography on the 
Internet. The conference aimed to establish international practices 
acceptable to law enforcement and justice officials, as well as to the 
Internet service provider industry, to purge child pornography from the 
Internet.
    People with Disabilities.--The law protects disabled individuals 
from discrimination in housing, education, and employment. In July 
1997, Parliament passed an amendment to the Constitution explicitly 
requiring the State to provide for equal rights for the disabled ``in 
all areas of everyday life.'' The law requires all private enterprises 
and state and federal government offices to employ 1 disabled person 
for every 25 to 45 employees, depending on the type of work. Employers 
who do not meet this requirement must pay a fee to the Government, and 
the proceeds help finance services for the disabled such as training 
programs, wage subsidies, and workplace adaptations. However, the law 
has received some criticism, since many observers believe that 
penalties are too low to discourage companies from bypassing the 
requirement. No federal law mandates access for the physically 
disabled; some public buildings are virtually inaccessible to those 
unable to climb stairs.
    Mentally retarded women can be sterilized involuntarily at the 
request of parents, in the case of minors, or, by request of the 
responsible family member or by court order, in the case of adults. One 
political party has called for restrictive legislation to make it more 
difficult to sterilize mentally retarded women; however, no legislative 
action has ever been taken on this proposal.
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities.--According to an Interior 
Ministry report on rightwing extremism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, 
in 1998 there were 244 reported rightwing incidents, 31 anti-Semitic 
incidents, and 8 xenophobic incidents. A total of 41 individuals were 
convicted. In 1997 the Ministry reported 279 rightwing incidents, 32 
anti-Semitic incidents, and 11 xenophobic incidents; criminal 
convictions were obtained in 47 cases. In 1997 the Anti-Defamation 
League opened an office in Vienna for Central and Eastern Europe. The 
EU opened an office against racism and xenophobia in Vienna in July 
1998. On March 16, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial 
Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern regarding reports of serious 
cases of police brutality towards persons of foreign origin and ethnic 
minorities.
    Legislation in 1997 provided law enforcement agencies with expanded 
investigative tools, such as electronic eavesdropping, merging of 
databases, and witness protection programs. Criminal investigations 
begun in 1995 against three Austrians for spreading fascist and extreme 
rightwing propaganda through the Internet were dropped in 1997 due to 
lack of sufficient evidence. Cases against two individuals accused in 
1997 of spreading rightwing propaganda via the Internet were dropped in 
1998, again due to insufficient evidence.
    In October authorities arrested 69 suspected neo-Nazis in the 
province of Upper Austria. The group had contacts with neo-Nazis in 
several other countries. In a separate action in November, 17 skinheads 
in the same province were charged with violation of the law against 
neo-Nazi activities.
    In March Franz Fuchs, the suspect accused of masterminding a 
xenophobic, deadly letter bomb campaign between 1993 and 1997, was 
convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The attacks killed four 
members of the Roma minority in Burgenland province in 1995 and injured 
15 other persons in Austria and in Germany. Fuchs was barred from the 
proceedings after yelling xenophobic slogans at the start of the trial.
    During the national election campaign, the Freedom Party (FPO) 
exploited the fears of many citizens that EU expansion and a continued 
influx of asylum seekers and refugees from the Balkans and other areas 
would result in uncontrolled immigration. The Vienna FPO chapter widely 
distributed placards carrying antiimmigrant slogans, including a call 
to stop ``over-foreignization.`` In reaction, on November 12, several 
tens of thousands of demonstrators attended a Vienna rally against 
racism and xenophobia.
    Religious Minorities.--In March CERD noted a number of reported 
acts of anti-Semitism and hostility against certain ethnic groups. The 
head of Austria's Jewish community reported an increase in expressions 
of anti-Semitism in the course of the campaign leading up to the 
October 3 elections, as well as after the elections. Members of the 
community reported receiving threatening mail, being attacked verbally, 
and occasionally being shoved forcefully aside by pedestrians. The head 
of the Jewish community concluded that this reflected an increasing 
intolerance toward minorities and appealed for the cooperation of all 
political forces to combat xenophobia and racism.
    The second suspect in the desecration of the Jewish cemetery in 
Eisenstadt in 1993 has not been apprehended, and the investigation is 
no longer being pursued actively.
Section 6. Worker Rights
    a. The Right of Association.--Workers have the right to form and 
join unions without prior authorization, under general constitutional 
provisions regarding freedom of association. In practice trade unions 
have an important and independent voice in the political, social, and 
economic life of the country. Fifty-two percent of the work force are 
organized into 14 national unions belonging to the Austrian Trade Union 
Federation (OGB), which has a highly centralized leadership structure. 
Individual unions and the OGB are independent of government or 
political party control, although formal factions within these 
organizations are allied closely with political parties.
    Although the right to strike is not provided explicitly in the 
Constitution or in national legislation, it is universally recognized. 
Historically, strikes have been comparatively few and usually of short 
duration. In 1998 there was a strike by employees of the Finance 
Ministry. A major reason for the record of labor peace is the 
unofficial system of ``social partnership'' among labor, management, 
and government. At the center of the system is the Joint Parity 
Commission for Wages and Prices, which has an important voice on major 
economic questions.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--Unions have the 
right to organize and bargain collectively. Almost all large companies, 
private or state-owned, are organized. Worker councils operate at the 
enterprise level, and workers are entitled by law to elect one-third of 
the members of the supervisory boards of major companies. Collective 
agreements covering wages, benefits, and working conditions are 
negotiated by the OGB with the National Chamber of Commerce and its 
associations, which represent the employers. The Joint Parity 
Commission sets wage and price policy guidelines. A 1973 law obliges 
employers in enterprises with more than five employees to prove that 
job dismissals are not motivated by antiunion discrimination. Employers 
found guilty of this offense are required to reinstate workers. Labor 
and business representatives remain in a longstanding disagreement over 
how to comply with the obligation under the International Labor 
Organization's Convention 98 to provide legal protection to employees 
against arbitrary dismissals in firms with five employees or fewer.
    Typically, legal disputes between employers and employees regarding 
job-related matters are handled by a special arbitration court for 
social affairs. The OGB is exclusively responsible for collective 
bargaining. The leadership of the Chamber of Labor, the Chamber of 
Commerce, and the OGB are elected democratically.
    There are no export processing zones.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--Forced labor is 
prohibited by law and generally is not practiced. Trafficking in women 
for the purpose of forced prostitution remains a problem (see Section 
6.f.). The Government prohibits forced and bonded labor by children and 
enforces this prohibition effectively.
    Former forced laborers have filed suits against Austrian companies 
that used forced labor provided by the Nazi government. In October 
1998, the Government set up a commission to analyze several Nazi-era 
issues, including forced labor.
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--The minimum legal working age is 15 years. The Labor 
Inspectorate of the Ministry of Social Affairs effectively enforces the 
law. The Government has adopted laws and policies to protect children 
from exploitation in the work place. The law prohibits forced and 
bonded child labor, and the Government enforces this prohibition 
effectively (see Section 6.c.).
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--There is no legislated national 
minimum wage. Instead, nationwide collective bargaining agreements set 
minimums by job classification for each industry. The generally 
accepted unofficial minimum gross income is $13,000 (ATS 168,000) per 
year. Every worker is entitled to a variety of generous social 
benefits. The average citizen has a high standard of living, and even 
the minimum wages are sufficient to permit a decent living for workers 
and their families.
    Although the legal workweek has been established at 40 hours since 
1975, more than 50 percent of the labor force is covered by collective 
bargaining agreements that set the workweek at 38 or 38\1/2\ hours.
    Extensive legislation, regularly enforced by the Labor Inspectorate 
of the Ministry of Social Affairs, provides for mandatory occupational 
health and safety standards. Workers may file complaints anonymously 
with the Labor Inspectorate, which may bring suit against the employer 
on behalf of the employee; however, this option is rarely exercised, as 
workers normally rely instead on the Chambers of Labor, which file 
suits on their behalf.
    The Labor Code provides that workers have the right to remove 
themselves from a job if they fear ``serious, immediate danger to life 
and health'' without incurring any prejudice to their job or career.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--There is no single law covering 
trafficking in persons generally, but several laws contain provisions 
that apply to this problem. Trafficking for the purpose of prostitution 
is illegal, and the law provides for a jail sentence of up to 10 years 
for convicted traffickers. (Prostitution itself is legal.) Another law 
covers trafficking in persons for purposes other than prostitution. 
NGO's report that enforcement is weak and that convicted traffickers 
generally receive sentences of less than 3 years' imprisonment. The 
country is both a significant transit and destination point, primarily 
for women from Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet 
Union, who are trafficked into prostitution and other forms of forced 
dependency. Organized crime groups from these areas also are involved 
in trafficking. The country is particularly attractive to traffickers 
due to its geographical location and the fact that citizens of the 
Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary do not require visas to enter the 
country.
    A witness protection program granting temporary resident status to 
women willing to testify against their traffickers went into effect on 
January 1, 1998. In the past, because so few witnesses agreed to 
testify against their traffickers, prosecution was difficult and those 
trafficked often simply were expelled from the country. The witness 
protection plan is aimed at generating more support from witnesses; 
however, victims still rarely agree to testify, due to fear of 
retribution. The temporary resident status allows victims to stay in 
the country only during a trial; no provisions are made for them to 
stay in the country following their testimony. Virtually all victims 
are deported. Various NGO's, with the support of the Government, have 
begun to broaden their assistance and strong support for battered 
spouses to include those women seeking to flee from the prostitution 
traps created by criminal elements. There is one NGO center that 
provides comprehensive counseling, educational services, and emergency 
housing to victims of trafficking. In 1995 the Government established 
an interministerial working group on trafficking in women, which was 
disbanded in 1998.
                                 ______
                                 

                               AZERBAIJAN

    Azerbaijan is a republic with a presidential form of government. 
Heydar Aliyev, who assumed presidential powers after the overthrow of 
his democratically elected predecessor in 1993, was reelected in 
October 1998 in a controversial election marred by numerous, serious 
irregularities, violations of the election law, and lack of 
transparency in the vote counting process at the district and national 
levels. President Aliyev and his supporters, many from his home region 
of Nakhchivan, continue to dominate the Government and the multiparty 
125-member Parliament chosen in the flawed 1995 elections. The 
Constitution, adopted in a 1995 referendum, established a system of 
government based on a division of powers among a strong presidency, a 
legislature with the power to approve the budget and impeach the 
President, and a judiciary with limited independence. The judiciary 
does not function independently of the executive branch and is corrupt 
and inefficient.
    After years of interethnic conflict between Armenians and 
Azerbaijanis, Armenian forces and forces of the self-styled ``Republic 
of Nagorno-Karabakh'' (which is not recognized by any government) 
continue to occupy 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory. A cease-fire 
was concluded in 1994, and the peace process continues. The Presidents 
of Azerbaijan and Armenia held a series of direct meetings in the 
second half of the year to discuss a compromise resolution. However, 
exchanges of fire occurred frequently along the Azerbaijan-Armenian 
border and along the line of contact with Nagorno-Karabakh, causing 
casualties. Military operations continued to affect the civilian 
population. There are 800,000 Azerbaijani refugees and internally 
displaced persons (IDP's) who cannot return to their homes. In the part 
of Azerbaijan that Armenians control, a heavily militarized ruling 
structure prevents ethnic Azerbaijanis from returning to their homes. 
In the part of Azerbaijan that the Government controls, government 
efforts to hinder the opposition continue to impede the transition to 
democracy.
    Police, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Ministry of 
National Security are responsible for internal security. Members of the 
police committed numerous human rights abuses.
    Azerbaijan continued its economic transition from central planning 
to a free market. Reforms continued on paper, but stagnated in 
practice. Economic growth has been spurred by substantial foreign 
investment in the hydrocarbon sector, but it is offset by a highly 
organized system of corruption and patronage. While government 
statistics pointed to continued economic growth during the year, the 
real economy was hit hard by a large-scale drop off in foreign business 
activity, due largely to low oil prices early in the year, endemic 
corruption, and a deteriorating business climate. The country has rich 
petroleum reserves and significant agricultural potential. Oil and oil 
products are the largest export, followed by cotton and tobacco. Other 
key industries are chemicals and oil field machinery. The Government 
signed several new oil production sharing agreements with foreign oil 
companies in 1999. Agriculture employs 33 percent of the labor force 
and makes up 20 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). The 
leading crops are wheat, fruit and vegetables, cotton, tobacco, and 
grapes. Privatization of industry continues through auction sales of 
small- and medium-sized state-owned enterprises. Large enterprises 
remain almost exclusively under government control and operate at a 
fraction of their capacity. Accumulation of large wage arrears is 
common. Private retail enterprises, cotton gins, and grain mills are 
proliferating. About 90 percent of the nation's farmland is now in 
private hands, but new small farmers have poor access to credit and 
markets, and commercial agriculture remains weak. Per capita GDP is 
approximately $500 per year. Much of the labor force is employed in the 
state sector where wages are low. The overall economic situation of the 
average citizen remains tenuous, although in urban areas a growing 
moneyed class with trade and oil-related interests has emerged. 
According to official statistics, the economy now is only 60 percent of 
the size of the economy in 1991. According to the World Bank, 60 
percent of the citizens live in poverty. Economic opportunity for the 
average citizen still depends largely on connections to the Government. 
Severe disparities of income have emerged that are attributed partly to 
patronage and corruption.
    The Government's human rights record was poor, and serious problems 
remained; however, there was significant improvement in one area. The 
Government continues to restrict citizens' ability to change their 
government peacefully. Police beat persons in custody, arbitrarily 
arrested and detained persons, and conducted searches and seizures 
without warrants. In most instances, the Government took no action to 
punish abusers, although perpetrators were prosecuted in a handful of 
cases. Prison conditions remained harsh, and some prisoners died as a 
result of these conditions. The judiciary is corrupt, inefficient, and 
subject to executive influence. Corruption continued to pervade most 
government organs, and it is widely believed that most persons in 
appointed government positions and in state employment purchase their 
positions. The Government holds an estimated 50 political prisoners, 
down from 75 in 1998. A number of prisoners were released upon 
expiration of their sentences, and others were granted amnesty. The 
Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights. The Government 
continued to impose some limits on freedom of speech and of the press. 
Although the Government abolished censorship in August 1998, government 
officials throughout the year sought to intimidate independent and 
opposition newspapers by repeatedly suing them for defamation. As a 
result, journalists practiced self-censorship. Nevertheless, scores of 
opposition and independent newspapers continued to publish and discuss 
a wide range of sensitive domestic and foreign policy issues. However, 
journalists were subject to violence on occasion by unknown assailants 
who sought to stop media criticism of the Government. Lengthy pretrial 
detention is still a problem. The Government continued to deny 
broadcast licenses to all truly independent organizations applying to 
open television and radio stations. The Government also tightly 
controlled official radio and television, the primary source of 
information for most of the population. In July and August, authorities 
forced all but two of the regional television stations that were 
broadcasting without licenses to close.
    The Government restricted freedom of assembly and association. 
Police suppressed or refused to allow any large-scale peaceful public 
demonstrations, while allowing smaller ones (of less than 50 
participants) to occur. Opposition political parties, unable to mount 
large-scale public activities, focused on holding smaller-scale 
meetings and seminars throughout the country. In many cases, opposition 
attempts to hold meetings in the regions outside the capital initially 
were refused by local authorities and were allowed only after 
intervention by the central Government. The Government tolerated the 
existence of many opposition political parties, although it continued 
to refuse to register some. After maintaining a pattern of low-level 
harassment against activity by religious minorities throughout most of 
the year, the lower levels of Government escalated this activity by 
cracking down on the legally registered Russian Baptist Church in 
September. However, the Government took steps to improve its record on 
religious liberty in the wake of President Aliyev's public commitment 
to do so in November. The Government also acted to redress earlier 
harassment, including arrests, deportation orders, and a failure to 
register religious groups, by lower-level government and security 
officials. Local authorities restricted freedom of movement in some 
instances.
    The Government held the country's first-ever municipal elections on 
December 12; however, the electoral process was marred by a nearly 
universal pattern of interference by local officials, which allowed 
them to control the selection of the election committees that 
supervised the election. The Government was critical of certain 
domestic human rights activists, although it was open to limited dialog 
with domestic and international human rights organizations. Societal 
discrimination and violence against women and discrimination against 
certain ethnic minorities are problems.
    Cease-fire violations by both sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh 
conflict continued. They resulted in injuries and deaths among 
combatants and occasionally civilians, and the taking of prisoners, 
including civilians. Insurgent Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and 
the occupied territories continued to prevent the return of IDP's to 
their homes. This restriction resulted in significant human suffering 
for hundreds of thousands of persons.
                        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 clearly extrajudicial killings.
    There were several reports of deaths of prisoners resulting from 
other than natural causes while in official custody (see Section 1.c.).
    There were at least two reports of deaths of prisoners, due at 
least in part to prison conditions while in official custody, and 
several prisoners were killed during a reported uprising at a prison in 
January (see Section 1.c.). At year's end, the Government had not 
released its long-awaited report on the prison uprising.
    There have been no further confirmed developments in the cases of 
the death of Firuz Gurbanov in August 1997, after which a police 
official was arrested, or in the death of Samir Zulfugarov in Baku in 
August 1997 where a police official reportedly was under investigation 
in connection with the death.
    There has been no action by the Government in the killing of 
opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front member of Parliament Shakhmerdan 
Jafarov in July 1995.
    Cease-fire violations by both sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh 
conflict occasionally resulted in injuries to civilians. During the 
year, three persons were killed and five were wounded by land mines 
laid near the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh. These mines were laid 
by the Governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the Karabakh Armenian 
authorities.
    b. Disappearance.--There were no reports of politically motivated 
disappearances.
    The Government released by year's end all six Armenian prisoners of 
war, including civilians, that it had been holding. Nagorno-Karabakh 
authorities released two Azerbaijani prisoners and reportedly still 
hold three prisoners. The ICRC repeatedly asked the concerned parties 
for notification of any person captured in relation to the conflict, 
access to all places of detention connected with the conflict, and 
release of all such persons. The ICRC also urged the parties to provide 
information on the fate of persons reported as missing in action. The 
Government again presented to the ICRC a list of 856 persons allegedly 
held by the Armenians; the list was also presented in 1998.
    c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment.--Torture is illegal; however, there are credible reports 
that the police practice of beating prisoners during arrest, 
interrogation, and pretrial detention was widespread. The Government 
does not hold most members of the police accountable for their actions. 
Impunity continues to be a problem, and in most instances, the 
Government took no action to punish abusers, although perpetrators were 
prosecuted in a handful of cases. In an August report, Human Rights 
Watch noted that the most severe and routine physical abuse of 
detainees takes place just prior to and during the preliminary 
investigation, as police and other investigators ``isolate detainees 
from all contact with the outside world, and beat and coerce 
confessions from suspects and statements from witnesses.''
    Police forcibly dispersed an unsanctioned demonstration on May 8. 
The demonstrators, organized by a combination of opposition parties, 
were attempting to assemble near a Baku cemetery to march to the 
Karabakh front over a hundred miles away to protest Armenian occupation 
of Azerbaijani territory. The Government refused to issue a permit for 
the march and ordered police to break up the rally. Several protesters 
were detained briefly before being released without charges (see 
Section 2.b.).
    Police harassed, detained, and arrested members of evangelical 
Christian and other groups, conducted illegal searches and seized their 
documents and property (see Section 2.c.). President Aliyev criticized 
these actions in November (see Section 2.c.).
    Prison conditions are harsh. The quality of food, housing, and 
medical care is poor. Prisoners must rely on their families to procure 
food and medicine. There are widespread and credible reports that 
authorities deny or give inadequate medical treatment to prisoners with 
serious medical conditions. Authorities severely limit opportunities 
for exercise and visits by lawyers and family members of prisoners in 
security prisons. Some prisoners are kept in ``separation cells'' often 
located in basements, in which prisoners reportedly are denied food and 
sleep in order to elicit confessions from them without actually leaving 
physical evidence of abuse. Men and women are housed in separate prison 
facilities.
    On January 7, 14 persons, including 11 prisoners and three 
government personnel, were killed when the authorities suppressed an 
alleged attempted escape by some of the inmates of the Gobustan prison. 
Those inmates killed were in prison on various coup and assassination 
convictions. Independent media speculated that frustration over the 
Government's failure to include any ``political'' prisoners in the 
December 31, 1998 amnesty granted to 12,000 convicts (including some 
convicted of serious crimes) may have sparked the prison incident.
    Human rights organizations were able to visit prisons on several 
occasions. However, the Government continued to deny the ICRC access to 
prisons except those where persons held in relation to the Nagorno-
Karabakh conflict were detained. Various foreign embassies have 
petitioned the Government for permission to visit all prisons. In 
general the Government denies access to detainees held in security 
prisons that hold both high risk common criminals and high risk persons 
sentenced for crimes with a political connection, for example, persons 
sentenced in connection with coup attempts and military mutinies.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--Authorities arbitrarily 
arrest and detain persons without legal warrants. Often authorities do 
not notify family members after arrests. Frequently, it is days before 
family members are able to obtain information as to whether authorities 
have arrested someone and where authorities are holding the detainee. 
Family members do not enjoy the right of visitation. Authorities 
generally deny bail to detained individuals and often do not inform 
detainees of the charges against them. There is no legal protection 
concerning the right of detainees to be charged or released within a 
certain period of time, or for accused persons to receive an 
expeditious trial. While the situation appears to be gradually 
improving, lengthy pretrial detention is still a problem. In July the 
Constitutional Court ruled that detainees could have access to a lawyer 
from the time of detention rather than only after they have been 
charged with a crime, but access to lawyers is often poor. In the past, 
police sometimes detained relatives of suspects being sought in an 
attempt to force the family to reveal a suspect's whereabouts (see 
Section 1.f.).
    During the year, police detained members or supporters of 
opposition parties who were participating in small demonstrations or 
other political activity. All were released after brief detentions and 
without further charges.
    The Government continued to harass parties critical of the 
Government by arbitrarily arresting party members, including close 
associates or relatives of opposition party leaders. During the summer, 
the Government arrested Etibar Guliyev, a nephew of Rasul Guliyev, co-
chairman of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party. He was accused of 
smuggling on his return to Azerbaijan from abroad. Rza Guliyev, another 
nephew of Guliyev, was arrested in 1998, convicted of tax evasion after 
initially being charged with embezzlement, and is serving a sentence of 
8 years in prison. Guliyev had been forced to resign as Chairman of the 
Parliament in 1996. He now is living abroad and is accused by the 
Government of large-scale embezzlement. The action taken against 
Guliyev's nephews appeared to be politically motivated. In June several 
members of the Popular Front Party were arrested and briefly detained 
following small demonstrations. This pattern of arrests and detentions 
recurred throughout the year.
    Police detained protesters in Baku in May in an unsanctioned 
demonstration (see Section 2.b.). Police beat, harassed, detained, and 
arrested members of evangelical Christian and other groups, and seized 
their documents and property (see Section 2.c.).
    In 1998 the Government arrested an aide to the chairman of the 
Popular Front Party, accusing him of illegal possession of a pistol and 
hand grenade, which independent observers believe were planted. It 
arrested two other associates of the Popular Front Party chairman at a 
demonstration in November 1998. All were convicted; one on a weapons 
charge and the other two of disturbing public order and resisting the 
police. The first was amnestied during the year, but the other two are 
still in prison. The Government convicted of embezzlement and jailed a 
deputy director of a state oil refinery previously run by Rasul 
Guliyev, a former chairman of the Parliament now living abroad whom the 
Government accuses of large-scale embezzlement.
    In addition, the Government originally rejected the appeal for the 
release of journalist Fuad Qahramanli, who was being kept in prison for 
having written an unpublished article discussing opposition rally 
tactics. In July Qahramanli was granted amnesty (see Section 2.a.).
    In 1997 an aide to opposition leader Isa Gambar and a relative of 
Gambar, initially detained for political reasons, were charged with 
failure to notify the Government of a crime, convicted, and sentenced 
to 3 years in prison (see Section 1.e.). Both were released in July.
    The Government does not use forced exile.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--The Constitution provides for a 
judiciary with limited independence; however, in practice judges do not 
function independently of the executive branch. The judicial system is 
subject to the influence of executive authorities. The President 
appoints Supreme and Constitutional Court judges, subject to 
confirmation by Parliament. The President directly appoints lower level 
judges with no requirement for confirmation. The Constitutional Court, 
formed in 1998, overruled several minor administrative and legislative 
acts as unconstitutional in its first full year of activity, but the 
short-term effect was limited. The judiciary also is widely believed to 
be corrupt and inefficient.
    Courts of general jurisdiction may hear criminal, civil, and 
juvenile cases. District and municipal courts try the overwhelming 
majority of cases. The Supreme Court also may act as the court of first 
instance, depending on the nature and seriousness of the crime.
    The Government organizes prosecutors into offices at the district, 
municipal, and republic level. They are ultimately responsible to the 
Minister of Justice, are appointed by the President, and are confirmed 
by Parliament. The Constitution prescribes equal status for prosecutors 
and defense attorneys before the courts. In practice, however, 
prosecutors' prerogatives greatly outweigh those of defense attorneys 
and often those of the judges themselves. Investigations often rely on 
obtaining confessions rather than obtaining evidence against suspects. 
No judge has dismissed a case based on a prisoner's claim of having 
been beaten.
    Cases at the district court level are tried before a panel 
consisting of one judge and two lay assessors. The judge presides over 
and directs trials. Judges frequently send cases unlikely to end in 
convictions back to the prosecutor for ``additional investigation.'' 
Such cases may be either dropped or closed, occasionally without 
informing either the court or the defendant.
    The Constitution provides for public trials except in cases 
involving state, commercial, or professional secrets, or matters 
involving confidentiality of personal or family matters. The 
Constitution provides for the presumption of innocence in criminal 
cases and for numerous other rights, including an exclusionary rule 
barring the use of illegally obtained evidence and for a suspect's 
right to legal counsel, to be informed immediately of his legal rights, 
and of the charges against him. However, the Government has not made 
significant efforts to enforce these rights throughout the criminal 
justice system. Defendants may confront witnesses and present evidence. 
The court appoints an attorney for indigent defendants. Defendants and 
prosecutors have the right of appeal. The Government generally has 
observed the constitutional provision for public trial. Foreign and 
domestic observers generally are able to attend trials.
    Opposition political parties and NGO's credibly estimate that the 
Government held about 50 political prisoners at year's end. The 
reduction from 75 prisoners in 1998 apparently reflected a combination 
of releases of some prisoners in a general amnesty and completion of 
jail sentences for others.
    The Government continues to assert that it holds no political 
prisoners.
    On February 17, a Baku district court found 14 participants in a 
November 8, 1998, opposition demonstration guilty of disturbing public 
order and resisting police. Four of the defendants are from the Popular 
Front Party, six are from the National Democratic Party, and six others 
are unaffiliated. The demonstrators were participating in a legally 
sanctioned rally that reportedly transpired without incident until a 
dozen assailants separate from the rally disrupted the event.
    f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--The Government infringed on these rights. The 
Constitution provides for secrecy of correspondence and telephone 
conversations, subject to limits provided by law in criminal 
investigations or in prevention of a crime. The Constitution allows 
searches of residences only with a court order or in cases provided by 
law. However, citizens widely believe that the Ministry of National 
Security monitors telephones and Internet traffic, especially those of 
foreigners and prominent political and business figures. Police often 
conducted searches without a warrant, and investigations sometimes 
resulted in confining the individuals to their city of residence or a 
brief jail sentence for questioning. There were credible allegations 
that police continued to intimidate and harass family members of 
suspects.
    There were credible reports that individuals linked to opposition 
parties were fired from their jobs (see Section 2.b.). The Government 
continued to harass some opposition party leaders by arresting their 
relatives (see Section 1.f.). Police harassed and detained members of 
evangelical Christian and other groups, carried out arbitrary searches, 
and seized their documents and property (see Section 2.c.).
    In June a court ruled in favor of a group of Muslim women who sued 
for the right to wear Islamic headscarves in passport photos. In 
September the Supreme Court overturned the lower court ruling; the case 
was on appeal in the Prosecutor General's office at year's end (see 
Section 2.c.).
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
    a. Freedom of Speech and Press.--The Constitution provides for 
freedom of speech and of the press and specifically outlaws press 
censorship; however, the Government in some cases did not respect these 
rights in practice. The Government did not take any measures to 
reinstitute press censorship, which was abolished in 1998; however, 
actions taken by several prominent government officials, including an 
ongoing series of libel suits, many of which ended with the levying of 
excessively high fines (which, if ever collected, would immediately 
bankrupt any independent or opposition newspaper), created an 
atmosphere in which journalists exercise self-censorship. Most of the 
excessive fines have been appealed; however, in those cases in which 
there have been rulings, the appeals were denied. Prominent opposition 
politicians criticized the Government without reprisal; however, in one 
case, former president Elchibey was charged with slander in 1998 after 
he accused the President of having helped organize a terrorist 
organization, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), during the Soviet 
era. The charges were dropped in January.
    While the press debated a wide variety of sensitive topics 
throughout the year, other factors restricted the public's ability to 
be informed about and discuss political issues. Most newspapers are 
printed in the Government's publishing house. The Government's near 
monopoly of publishing facilities and its control over the price of 
newsprint gives it leverage over the press, a critical matter given the 
precarious finances of most opposition newspapers. Some editors 
complain about having their print runs limited by the state printing 
press, and many cite the threat of increases in paper and printing 
prices as a constraint on the free press.
    The spate of lawsuits by prominent government officials against 
opposition or independent media outlets also had a negative effect on 
freedom of the press in practice. Courts invariably ruled in favor of 
the government plaintiffs, while ruling against opposition plaintiffs 
pursuing similar charges against progovernment media outlets in all but 
two cases. It appears that the extremely high financial penalties 
levied by the courts were designed to repress criticism rather than to 
foster responsible journalism. However, none of the fines had been 
collected by year's end, and no media outlets were closed for that 
reason. Nevertheless, the media outlets in question credibly claimed 
publicly and privately that the threat of the charges forced them to 
exercise self-censorship.
    Journalists were subject to violence. Several incidents were 
reported in June and July in which masked assailants kidnaped, beat, 
and threatened journalists. Two of the three cases of harassment of 
journalists involved journalists from Hurriyet, a newspaper associated 
with Rasul Guliyev. Although the number of violent incidents against 
journalists decreased during the year, despite promises of rapid 
action, police have yet to determine the identity of any of the 
assailants. While the Government denies any relationship with the 
assailants, the incidents involved opposition journalists who were 
warned to stop criticizing government officials or policies.
    Rovshan Ismailov of Ganun (Law) magazine was beaten on April 13 in 
the Izami district of Baku. He said that he was shopping when several 
plainclothes police officers approached him, and he identified himself 
as a journalist. Following a verbal confrontation, Ismailov said that 
the officers beat him. At year's end no action had been taken against 
the officers.
    In June unknown assailants kidnaped opposition journalist Kamil 
Tagisoy, whom unknown assailants kidnaped, beat, and warned to stop 
writing about President Aliyev's health. On June 30, three persons 
claiming to be employees of the National Security Ministry intercepted 
a car in which two journalists from the opposition newspaper Yeni 
Musavat were traveling and abducted the newspaper's deputy editor, 
Shirzad Mamedli. Mamedli was released 1 hour later after having been 
beaten severely.
    Approximately 30 journalists and members of NGO's held an 
unsanctioned protest on July 6 in front of the Prosecutor-General's 
office in Baku to protest such harassment and violence against 
independent journalists. The previous day the Baku mayor's office had 
refused permission to stage the protest.
    In May the Government rejected an appeal for the release of 
journalist Fuad Qahramanli of CAG newspaper (published by the Democracy 
Development Foundation), who was being kept in prison for having 
written an article that was never published. In June 1998, police from 
the Department Against Organized Crime declared the article, entitled 
``The Opposition Rally Tactics,'' to be dangerous and subversive. On 
July 11, the Government granted amnesty to Qahramanli (see Section 
1.d.).
    There has been no further action taken on the following cases: The 
beating of a journalist in February 1998; the attack on 34 journalists 
by police when they were reporting on an opposition rally in Baku in 
September 1998; and the attack on 4 journalists when they were 
protesting peacefully the defamation trial of Yeni Musavat in November 
1998.
    Despite government pressure and such attacks, the independent and 
opposition press played an active, influential role in politics. 
Articles critical of government policy and high government figures, 
including the President, and discussion of sensitive areas of domestic 
and foreign policy, appeared routinely in the opposition and 
independent print and broadcast media. The independent press does not 
always meet internationally accepted journalistic standards.
    A large number of newspapers continued to publish. One reliable 
source put the number of registered newspapers at 600, and the number 
actually publishing at least once a month at nearly 100. These included 
independent newspapers and newspapers with links to major and minor 
opposition parties. Government-run kiosks and 27 independent news 
distributors distributed opposition and independent newspapers. A 
number of editors continued to complain that the government-run kiosks 
refuse to carry their newspapers or claim to have sold all received 
copies while, in fact, retaining many unsold copies in stock.
    The Government tightly controlled official radio and television, 
the source of information for much of the population because the cost 
of newspapers makes them unaffordable for most persons. Television and 
radio stations require a license to operate, and the Government used 
this requirement to prevent several independent stations from 
broadcasting. Since 1993 no truly independent broadcaster has received 
a frequency from the State Commission on Radio and Television 
Frequencies and the Ministry of Communications. There are a limited 
number of private television stations, whose broadcasts can be received 
only in Baku or in local areas outside the capital. Only one of the 
private stations is not directly under the control of a government 
official, and it is believed widely that this station also has 
compromised its independence. Independent radio, preferred by the 
overwhelming majority of listeners, largely is oriented to 
entertainment, but one independent station airs political topics, 
although news is only a small portion of its program. Opposition 
parties had virtually no access to the official electronic media. The 
Government periodically used state television to conduct campaigns of 
denunciation and harassment against political parties and leaders 
critical of the Government.
    Three independent television stations operate in Baku. Six 
independent television stations operating outside of Baku, which had 
been rebroadcasting without frequency licenses, were closed in July and 
August. In July and August, authorities--in one case armed with guns--
forced all but two of the regional television stations that were 
broadcasting without licenses to close.
    During the fall, authorities shut down the independent, foreign-
owned television station SARA on the grounds that the law prohibits 
foreign ownership of domestic television stations. Observers noted that 
for 5 years Sara aired without problems as a mainly entertainment 
channel, until it started airing political programs in the summer; the 
Government closed down the station after it gave a prominent platform 
on a program to opposition leaders discussing the Nagorno-Karabakh 
dispute. On December 24, the Economic Court upheld a Lower Court ruling 
against SARA's owners.
    At year's end, there were four independent television stations 
operating outside of Baku, one each in the cities of Ganja, 
Mingechevir, Quba, and Sumqayit. Four other independent stations in 
Quba, Tovuz, Zagatala, and Belakan, remain closed. Three Russian and 
three Turkish television stations and radio programs are rebroadcast 
locally through Azerbaijani facilities and are seen and heard in most 
parts of the country. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of 
America broadcast without restriction. There are no restrictions on 
reception of foreign stations via satellite. The Government granted new 
broadcast licenses to a few foreign radio stations, plus several 
regional television stations directly under the control of the local 
executive commission. The Government has delayed action for more than a 
year on the applications to broadcast of more than 10 independent 
broadcasters.
    The Government allowed limited Internet access. There are 2 
Internet service providers, although more than 12 vendors sell 
accounts. Both providers have formal links with the Ministry of 
Communications. Connecting costs, which average $3 per hour (down from 
$10 per hour in 1998), are still beyond the budgets of most citizens; 
few citizens have accounts of their own. Many persons believe that the 
Government monitors Internet traffic, especially that of foreign 
businesses and opposition-oriented intellectuals and leaders (see 
Section 1.f.).
    Appointments to government-controlled academic positions are 
heavily dependent on political connections. Nevertheless, several 
professors with tenure are active in opposition parties. There were no 
complaints of violation of academic freedom or of censorship of books 
or academic journals.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The Constitution 
provides for freedom of assembly; however, the Government restricts 
this right when it decides that it is in its interest to do so. 
Authorities frequently prevented political parties critical of the 
Government from conducting many indoor meetings as well as outdoor 
gatherings. The Government allowed some political party gatherings, 
such as the Popular Front's 10th anniversary meeting in July. 
Authorities also permitted opposition parties to organize so-called 
``pickets,'' demonstrations with less than 50 participants. Authorities 
cited questionable security considerations repeatedly to ban any larger 
demonstrations throughout the year.
    The Government detained persons at unauthorized rallies and 
meetings, but released them without charges after brief detention. 
Police briefly detained demonstrators at the May 8 rally before 
releasing them without charges. Police forcibly dispersed an 
unsanctioned demonstration on May 8. The demonstrators, organized by a 
combination of opposition parties, were attempting to assemble near a 
Baku cemetery to march to the Karabakh front over a hundred miles away 
to protest Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territory. The Government 
refused to issue a permit for the march and ordered police to break up 
the rally. Several protesters were detained briefly before being 
released without charges (see Section 1.c.). In July journalists and 
members of NGO's held an unsanctioned protest in Baku to protest 
harassment and violence against independent journalists (see Section 
2.a.).
    Heads of local governments in several different sections of the 
country repeatedly refused the requests of opposition members of 
Parliament, such as Popular Front First Deputy chairman Ali Kerimov, to 
hold organized meetings with constituents and interested citizens. On 
several occasions, central government authorities intervened to 
overrule the local authorities and allow Kerimov and other opposition 
members of Parliament to hold the meetings.
    Four participants in a November 1998 opposition rally were arrested 
and sentenced to jail terms of up to 3 years; however, none of the 
persons who attacked these peaceful demonstrators has been arrested, 
despite the fact that the faces of the attackers apparently were 
recorded on film. At year's end, no action had been taken against the 
attackers.
    The Constitution provides for freedom of association, although in 
practice the Government continued to restrict this freedom when it was 
in its interest to do so. The Government requires political parties to 
register. There are over 30 registered political parties. Some of these 
are affiliated with or support the President's party. At least 10 
registered parties are considered opposition parties. The Government 
continued to refuse to register the Azerbaijan Democratic Party; the 
Supreme Court is to hold a hearing early in 2000 on the Democratic 
Party's suit against the Government. Other unregistered parties have 
not met the legal requirements for registration. Nevertheless, 
unregistered political parties continued to function openly, and 
members of unregistered political parties can run for president but 
must be sponsored by a registered party or an independent ``voters 
initiative group.'' Members of unregistered parties may run for 
Parliament, but only as independents in a direct constituency, not on a 
party list. A party must be registered to run a list of candidates. 
Members of unregistered parties running in municipal elections had to 
run as independents, or be nominated by a registered party or another 
voter initiatives group.
    Credible reports of harassment, including beatings, of political 
figures continued. There were credible reports that individuals linked 
to opposition parties (and their relatives) were fired from their jobs. 
Members of Parliament who switched to opposition parties were, in some 
cases, subjected to criticism in the government media and to anti-
member rallies promoted by local authorities in the home districts of 
those members. The Government has not yet returned the Popular Front's 
headquarters nor many of its regional offices, which were seized in 
1993.
    Explicitly ethnically or religiously based parties have not been 
registered.
    The Government generally allowed private associations to function 
freely. The Ministry of Justice requires private organizations to 
register but does not grant this registration freely and expeditiously. 
It denied or unduly delayed registration for numerous private voluntary 
organizations, including two private human rights organizations. 
Nevertheless, unregistered associations functioned openly.
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution allows persons of all 
faiths to practice their religion without restrictions, and the 
Government respects this provision in practice for Shi'a and Sunni 
Muslims, Russian Orthodox Christians, and Jews; however, other 
religious groups, which lack a long history in the country, are 
subjected routinely to low level harassment. The Government frequently 
used clauses in the Law on Religious Freedom to restrict religious 
activity by foreigners and nontraditional religious groups. There is no 
state religion, and the right to choose or change one's religious 
affiliation is provided for.
    The Law on Religious Freedom contains provisions that allow the 
Government to restrict effectively religious activity by foreigners and 
even Azerbaijani members of nontraditional religious groups. These 
restrictions consist of burdensome registration requirements, 
limitations on freedom to proselytize, and interference with 
dissemination of printed materials. Most of the groups affected note 
that these restrictions have been applied sporadically, and most groups 
operate freely. Where these restrictions are applied, they are used to 
harass minority religions rather than eliminate them. In addition a law 
on foreigners and stateless persons contains language that prohibits 
religious ``propaganda'' by foreigners. This provision was reinforced 
by a presidential decree in 1997, and the Government uses these and 
other legal provisions to restrict religious activity by foreign, and 
to a lesser degree Azerbaijani, members of nontraditional religious 
groups. There is no state religion.
    In early November President Aliyev announced to the National 
Security Council, and later in a nationwide television broadcast, that 
the Government henceforth would abide by OSCE standards of religious 
liberty. Apparently in conformity with his directives, government 
officials subsequently took steps to rectify some past violations of 
these standards, including the registration of a number of religious 
organizations that previously had been denied registration.
    The most common restriction on religious freedom results from the 
requirement in the Law on Religion that all religious organizations be 
registered by the Government in order to function legally. This is in 
principle done by obtaining approval from the Department of Religious 
Affairs and then applying for formal registration with the Ministry of 
Justice. The Government states that so far it has registered 
approximately 190 Muslim organizations and 50 ``other'' groups. In 
practice, however, the process suffers from a lack of transparency, 
particularly within the Department of Religious Affairs. This office, 
an independent entity subordinated directly to the Council of 
Ministers, has been a bottleneck in the registration process. A wide 
variety of religious groups have been subjected to interminable delays, 
and a number of them remain unregistered; however, in response to the 
President's November calls for adherence to international standards of 
religious liberty, the Government took several steps to rectify 
previous problems.
    Registration enables a religious organization to maintain a bank 
account, legally rent property, and generally to act as a legal entity. 
Lack of registration makes it harder, but not impossible, for a 
religious group to function. Unregistered groups often continue to 
operate, but participants are subject to arrest, fines, and--in the 
cases of foreigners--deportation. Human Rights Watch alleged in 
February 1998 that officials responsible for registration have taken 
bribes in order to facilitate registration. Religious groups are 
permitted to appeal registration denials to the courts, but the only 
group to do so to date--the Pentecostal ``Word of Life'' Church--lost 
its case in May 1998. The Catholic Church was registered in April after 
an 18-month delay. Following the President's November statements, the 
Government, specifically the Department of Religious Affairs and the 
Ministry of Justice, took action on several applications by religious 
groups for registration that had been languishing, in some cases for 
years. The Cathedral of Praise and the Nehemiah were registered in 
December, but at year's end Jehovah's Witnesses were not registered. 
Prompted by the November statements, some other religious groups that 
had been operating under continual low-level harassment because the 
Religious Affairs Department earlier had denied them registration were 
seeking registration at year's end.
    The Religious Affairs Department repeatedly sought to interfere in 
the internal affairs of at least two religious groups, refusing to 
permit a Catholic Church to select its own priest and refusing to 
recognize the Evangelical Lutheran Church's right to select its own 
leadership. In December, the President's office overruled the Religious 
Affairs Department and officially recognized the right of both groups 
to make their internal organizational decisions freely and without 
interference.
    Six Jehovah's Witnesses were fired for their religious affiliation 
in September in Garadag, and, along with two others, were given 
administrative fines by the local government. In November, following 
President Aliyev's public comments, the six were reinstated in their 
jobs with full back pay. The eight members now are pursuing an appeal 
of their administrative fines through the court system. A member of the 
Jehovah's Witnesses in Khachmaz was detained by police in August; he 
reportedly was beaten, and his religious material was confiscated. In 
December the prosecutor's office opened an investigation into the 
police actions.
    In September police interrupted a service at the legally registered 
Evangelical Baptist church and detained approximately 70 worshippers. 
Authorities sentenced two Azerbaijani church officials to 15 days in 
jail on charges of resisting police. Other religious groups reported 
police harassment in August and September. Some religious groups 
reported that the harassment ceased after President Aliyev's public 
comments in November.
    The Law on Religion subordinates all Islamic religious 
organizations to the Azerbaijan-based Spiritual Directorate of Caucasus 
Muslims. In June a court decided in favor of a group of Muslim women 
who sued for the right to wear Islamic headscarves in passport 
photography. The judges ruled in favor of the women, who said that 
there was nothing in the law that prevented them from wearing Islamic 
headscarves in official photographs. In September the Supreme Court 
overturned the lower court ruling; the case was on appeal in the 
Prosecutor General's office at year's end (see Section 1.f.).
    The Law on Religion also permits the production and dissemination 
of religious literature only with the approval of the Department of 
Religious Affairs and with the agreement of local government 
authorities. The Government now interprets this provision to mean that 
only religious groups can engage in such activity and argues that 
booksellers and other entrepreneurs are forbidden to engage in that 
activity. For example, the Department of Religious Affairs in October 
1998 held up a shipment of books imported by a private individual not 
associated with a local congregation for sale at a legally registered 
bookstore in Baku after it determined that some of the books had 
religious content. The books were held until June when the Deputy Prime 
Minister's office overruled the Religious Affairs Department and 
ordered the books released to the bookseller. In one case, officials 
delayed the importation of a shipment of religious literature by a 
private individual not associated with a local congregation; on June 10 
the shipment was released by customs.
    The Department of Religious Affairs sought throughout the first 
half of the year to prevent a local bookstore from importing books with 
religious content. The Department based its restriction on a clause in 
the Law on Religious Freedom that states that religious groups may 
produce, import, and disseminate religious literature. The Department 
of Religious Affairs argued that this clause means that only religious 
groups may engage in such activities. The Council of Ministers 
overruled the Department in June, ordering the books released to the 
bookseller.
    Some government bias against foreign missionary groups persisted. 
Foreign Christian and other groups complained credibly of official 
harassment. Members of unregistered groups are subject to arrest and 
fines, and foreigners can be deported. Foreign Christian and other 
groups were subject to harassment and detention under a provision in 
the Law on Religious Freedom banning ``religious propaganda'' by 
foreigners. The Department for Religious Affairs also used the 
provision of the law on foreigners and stateless persons that prohibits 
religious ``propaganda'' (i.e., proselytizing) by foreigners, to harass 
foreign missionaries and religious figures. In September nine 
foreigners were arrested and sentenced to deportation under this 
provision. In November the Supreme Court overturned these sentences, 
ruling that they violated constitutional provisions for religious 
freedom. In January and June, articles appeared throughout the press 
crudely depicting Christian missionary groups as a threat to the 
nation. In August several evangelical Christian and other religious 
groups reported a wave of police harassment, including detention, 
arbitrary search and seizure of documents and other private property, 
and warnings to desist from religious activity. In September the police 
interrupted a service at the legally registered Baptist Church and 
began questioning worshippers. Without giving a reason for their 
action, uniformed and plainclothes police officers refused to release 
persons until obtaining their names and addresses. Police criticized 
ethnic Azeri Christians for dropping their Muslim affiliation. 
Approximately 70 Azeris and foreigners were detained for several days 
of questioning. Two Azeri pastors were sentenced to 15 days in jail for 
allegedly resisting the police, a charge contested by all available 
witnesses.
    Because of anti-Armenian sentiment and the forced departure of most 
of the Armenian population, Armenian churches remained closed (see 
Section 5). The same situation prevails for Azerbaijani mosques in the 
portions of southwest Azerbaijan controlled by Armenian separatists 
(see section 5). The Jewish community has freedom to worship and 
conduct educational activities and, during the year, enjoyed the public 
support of the Government.
    Places of worship seized by the former Soviet Government during the 
Communist era from the Baha'is, the Catholics, the Lutherans, and the 
Baptists have not yet been returned to those groups.
    Some government officials share the strong popular prejudice 
against ethnic Azerbaijanis who have converted to Christianity and 
other religions (see Section 5). For example an ethnic Azerbaijani was 
subjected to administrative fines by local officials in Baku in July 
for possessing Christian literature, and another ethnic Azerbaijani 
reported that he was arrested, beaten, and imprisoned in August for 
changing his religious affiliation and becoming a member of Jehovah's 
Witnesses.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--The Constitution provides for the right 
of citizens to choose freely their place of domicile and to travel 
abroad and return, and the Government generally respects these 
provisions; however, at times it limited the movement of members of 
opposition parties. In at least one case, the Government limited the 
movement of members of opposition parties. Residents of border areas in 
both Azerbaijan and Iran travel across the border in this restricted 
zone without visas. Foreigners and citizens require a visa to travel to 
the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan. Local officials harass and deny 
passports to some members of the Armenian minority who wish to 
emigrate.
    In late 1998 and early this year, former president Abulfaz Elchibey 
was prevented from traveling outside Baku for approximately 2 months 
while under investigation and on trial for insulting the President; the 
charges were dropped in February.
    The Government officially recognizes freedom of emigration. Jewish 
emigration to Israel and other countries is unrestricted by the 
Government. However, with the majority of those who wish to emigrate 
already having left, the number of Jewish emigrants is now small. The 
remaining Armenian population in Azerbaijan (other than Armenians 
residing in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan) is approximately 
10,000 to 20,000, almost exclusively persons of mixed descent or in 
mixed marriages. While official government policy is that ethnic 
Armenians are free to travel, low-level officials seeking bribes 
harassed Azerbaijani citizens of Armenian origin who sought to emigrate 
or obtain passports.
    There were no draft notifications that restricted movement during 
the year. Draft-age men must obtain documents from military officials 
before they can leave for international travel.
    The number of refugees and internally displaced persons from the 
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is approximately 800,000. Armenians have 
settled in parts of the occupied territories. However, Armenians have 
not allowed the hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis who were forced 
out of the now-occupied territories to return to their homes. The 
Government provides almost no assistance to these persons, who rely on 
donations from foreign countries. Most of these internally displaced 
persons continue to live in camps and other temporary shelters, often 
at below-subsistence levels, without adequate food, housing, education, 
sanitation, or medical care. The parties to the conflict have cut 
normal trade and transportation links to the other side, causing severe 
hardship to civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, and the Azerbaijani 
exclave of Nakhchivan.
    The Constitution provides for political asylum consistent with 
international norms. The Government is receptive to international 
assistance for refugees and IDP's. It cooperates with international 
organizations to provide aid for them. The Government cooperates with 
the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) 
and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. The issue 
of the provision of first asylum did not arise. There were no reports 
of the forced expulsion of persons with a valid claim to refugee 
status.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to 
        Change Their Government
    In theory the election law and Constitution allow citizens to 
change their government by peaceful means; however, the Government 
continues to restrict citizens' ability to change their Government 
peacefully by interfering in elections.
    Azerbaijan is a republic with a strong presidency, and a 
legislature that the Constitution describes as independent. However, in 
practice the legislature's independence from the executive is marginal. 
The Parliament exercises little legislative initiative independent of 
the executive. As a result of the flawed 1995 parliamentary elections, 
the New Azerbaijan Party led by President Aliyev, along with other 
parties and nominally independent deputies loyal to the President, 
occupy the overwhelming majority of seats in the 125-member Parliament. 
The ruling party held its first party congress in December. Parties 
considering themselves as belonging to the opposition hold 20 seats and 
formed a unified bloc in April, but their ability to influence 
legislation is less than marginal. Opposition parties continued to be 
active outside the Parliament, agitating for their views in their 
newspapers and through public statements. However, the Government 
continued to deny registration to the opposition Azerbaijani Democratic 
Party (see Section 2.b.).
    Parliamentary by-elections were held on two occasions and were 
marked by claims of fraud, although the lack of independent observers 
made verification impossible.
    The 1998 presidential election was an improvement over the previous 
elections, especially in regard to reduced multiple voting and the 
presence of domestic observers. However, some domestic and 
international observers witnessed ballot stuffing and irregularities in 
vote counting, and some were barred from observing the vote counting. 
Neither domestic nor international observers were allowed to monitor 
the compilation of the national vote totals. The observed 
irregularities and lack of transparency in vote counting led to serious 
doubts about the accuracy of the 76 percent of the vote officially 
recorded for President Aliyev. In August newspapers quoted the chairman 
of the CEC as admitting that Aliyev's vote total had been overstated by 
12 to 15 percent. International observers, including the OSCE/ODIHR, 
concluded that the election did not meet international standards.
    Courts did not give serious consideration to the complaints filed 
by runner-up E'tibar Mammedov, who charged that the President did not 
receive the necessary two-thirds vote to avoid a run-off. The CEC did 
not publish vote totals of election districts within the time period 
required by the election law, and by the end of 1999, it still had not 
published vote totals for election precincts. The election law required 
that the full vote totals be published within 30 days of the election; 
that is, by November 11, 1998.
    During and prior to the presidential election campaign, the 
Government took a number of steps to improve the election and overall 
political environment. In addition to amending the election law, the 
Government abolished press censorship, ended the criminal investigation 
of certain opposition figures, allowed the opposition to conduct some 
rallies, and gave registered opposition presidential candidates access 
to state broadcast media. On the other hand, the state media's 
reporting on the election was biased heavily in favor of the President. 
The CEC and local commissions were insufficiently representative and 
did not function impartially. The Government did not fully respect 
freedom of assembly.
    The 1995 Constitution required that the country's first-ever 
municipal elections be held by November 1997. However, the elections 
were delayed repeatedly until they were finally held on December 12. 
The municipal election process was deeply flawed. The legislation 
governing the elections reflected some recommendations of international 
observers, but several serious problems were not remedied. The process 
of selecting territorial and precinct electoral commissions to oversee 
the municipal elections was marred by widespread irregularities with an 
overwhelming pattern of favoring the ruling party and supporters of 
local authorities. The process of registering candidates was marred 
similarly by widespread irregularities, that favored the authorities. 
The elections themselves were criticized heavily by observers, 
including the Council of Europe (COE), which noted numerous instances 
of ballot-stuffing, voter intimidation, and other violations.
    Major opposition parties, with the exception of the unregistered 
Azerbaijan Democratic Party (see Section 2.b.) and the Azerbaijan 
National Independence Party (chaired by presidential election runner-up 
Mammedov), agreed to participate in the December municipal elections.
    There are no legal restrictions on women's participation in 
politics; however, traditional social norms restrict women's roles in 
politics. In past elections and also in the December municipal 
elections, in a practice known as family voting, men often cast the 
votes of their wives and other female members of their families. In the 
1998 presidential election, this practice was seen less often. There 
are 11 female Members of Parliament and 2 women with ministerial rank.
    There are no restrictions on the participation of minorities in 
politics as individuals; however, explicitly ethnically or religiously 
based parties have not been registered. Members of indigenous ethnic 
minorities such as Talysh, Lezghis, and Kurds occupy some senior 
government positions.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    Several human rights organizations monitor the human rights 
situation in the country. For the most part, the Government posed no 
objections to international human rights groups. Some of these groups 
investigate human rights abuses and disseminate their findings through 
the media. However, the Government has been critical of certain 
domestic human rights activists who have raised politically sensitive 
issues.
    The Government has demonstrated a limited willingness to discuss 
human rights problems with international and domestic nongovernmental 
organizations (NGO's). The ICRC has had access to prisoners of war as 
well as civilians held in relation to the conflict over Nagorno-
Karabakh. However, the ICRC has requested and been denied access to 
prisoners not related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict being held in 
special security and other prisons.
    Government officials occasionally criticize human rights activists. 
The chief prosecutor threatened the chairman of the Azerbaijan Human 
Rights Center, Eldar Zeynalov, with criminal prosecution if he 
continued to claim that Azerbaijan held political prisoners. Zeynalov's 
organization continues these claims about political prisoners, and he 
has faced no legal action. The Government registered the Azerbaijan 
Human Rights Center in November; its chairman Eldar Zeynalov now is 
routinely granted access to prisons and the Center operates normally.
    The Ministry of Justice continued to deny registration to many 
local human rights NGO's, but the Government has not tried to halt 
their activities. Registration enables a human rights organization to 
maintain a bank account legally, rent property, and generally to act as 
a legal entity. Lack of registration makes it harder, but not 
impossible, for a human rights group to function.
    The ICRC conducted education programs on international humanitarian 
law for officials of the Ministries of Interior and Defense, and for 
university and secondary school students.
    In August the Government created a Commission on Human Rights, 
funded by a $400,000 U.N. Development Program grant, which is headed by 
Justice Minister Sudaba Hasanova. By year's end, the commission had not 
taken any significant actions.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language, or Social Status
    The Constitution provides for equal rights without respect to 
gender, race, nationality or national origin, religion, language, 
social status, or membership in political parties, trade unions, or 
other public organizations. However, in the wake of the Nagorno-
Karabakh conflict, there is widespread anti-Armenian sentiment in 
society. Preventing discrimination is not a major government priority.
    Women.--Discussion of violence against women is a taboo subject in 
Azerbaijan's patriarchal society, but it remains a problem. In rural 
areas, women have no real recourse against violence by their husbands, 
regardless of the law. Rape is severely punishable, but, especially in 
rural areas, only a small fraction of offenses against women are 
reported or prosecuted. Police statistics note that, compared with the 
first 6 months of 1998, rape and rape attempts increased by 50 percent 
in the first 6 months of the year. This increase appears to be due to 
both an increase in actual instances and an increase in the reporting 
of such cases, although the figures still reflect considerable 
underreporting, especially from conservative rural areas. There are no 
government sponsored or funded programs for victims of violence. There 
are no specific laws concerning spousal abuse or spousal rape.
    Prostitution is a prominent problem, particularly in the capital 
city of Baku. Most women become prostitutes in order to support their 
family, and sometimes it even is encouraged by the family due to the 
large amount of money to be made. The Society for the Defense of 
Women's Rights (SDWR) held a mid-February conference to highlight 
concerns over the growing incidence of prostitution and sexually 
transmitted diseases. At the conference, it was reported that there are 
more than 30 illegal houses of prostitution in Baku alone, the majority 
of which are run by high-ranking officials in government and routinely 
used by members of the prosecutor's office and the police.
    Trafficking in women is a problem, and the country is a source and 
transit point for trafficked women (see Section 6.f.).
    Women nominally enjoy the same legal rights as men, including the 
right to participate in all aspects of economic and social life. In 
general women have extensive opportunities for education and work. 
However, traditional social norms continue to restrict women's roles in 
the economy. Representation of women is sharply lower in higher levels 
of the work force. There are few women in executive positions in 
leading economic enterprises.
    Eighteen women's NGO's are registered and deal with the problems of 
women. The Association for the Defense of Rights of Azerbaijani Women 
spends most of its time fighting uniquely post-Soviet problems. It has 
helped divorced women, widows, and wives whose husbands are in prison, 
all of whom have become socially and legally vulnerable since the fall 
of the Soviet Union. It assisted widows whose landlords privatized 
their apartments and then evicted them. It also worked with divorced 
women who feel that they have been treated unfairly by divorce courts. 
Two of the 18 women's NGO's deal with the problems of prostitution and 
women trafficking (see Section 6.f.).
    Children.--The Constitution and laws commit the Government to 
protect the rights of children to education and health; however, 
difficult economic circumstances limit the Government's ability to 
carry out these commitments. Education is compulsory, free, and 
universal until the age of 17. The Constitution places children's 
rights on the same footing as those of adults. The Criminal Code 
prescribes severe penalties for crimes against children. The Government 
provides minimum standards of health care for children, although the 
quality of medical care overall is very low. The Government has 
authorized subsidies for children in an attempt to shield families 
against economic hardship in the wake of price liberalization, but 
these subsidies do not come close to covering the shortfall in family 
budgets. There are a large number of refugee and displaced children 
living in substandard conditions in refugee camps and public buildings. 
Children sometimes beg on the streets of Baku and other towns.
    There is no known societal pattern of abuse of children.
    People with Disabilities.--The Law on Support for the Disabled, 
enacted in 1993, prescribes priority for invalids and the disabled in 
obtaining housing, as well as discounts for public transport, and 
pension supplements. The Government does not have the means in its 
current financial crisis to fulfill its commitments. There are no 
special provisions in the law mandating accessibility to buildings for 
the disabled.
    Religious Minorities.--There is considerable popular concern about 
the conversion of ethnic Azerbaijanis to faiths considered alien to 
Azerbaijani traditions. Opposition to proselytizing within the 
population thus far has been limited to verbal criticism and appears 
focused against two groups. The first consists of evangelical Christian 
and so-called ``nontraditional'' religious groups. There is some 
evidence of widespread prejudice against ethnic Azerbaijanis who have 
converted to Christianity. During the year, articles periodically 
appeared in progovernment and independent newspapers and electronic 
media crudely depicting Christian missionary groups as a threat to the 
identity of the nation. The perceived threat from such groups is 
primarily cultural rather than religious. Often these articles attempt 
to associate evangelists with the intelligence sources of Christian 
Russia and Armenia, portraying them as part of a plot to undermine or 
control Muslim Azerbaijan.
    Occasionally, popular reaction goes beyond verbal criticism. In 
August a crowd of Muslims reportedly broke into a Baptist summer camp 
in Nardaran, threatening inhabitants and causing significant property 
damage. Police made no attempt to intervene and said that they found no 
evidence of the incident.
    Several members of Jehovah's Witnesses reportedly were subjected to 
humiliation and degradation in early September when a factory manager 
assembled the plant's work force and berated the members of Jehovah's 
Witnesses for betraying their country by adopting a new religion. 
During the event, the father of one of the members of Jehovah's 
Witnesses publicly disowned her for adopting the new religion. In 
November, the factory reinstated the members with full back pay (see 
Section 2.c.).
    The second target of societal hostility is Muslim groups, mostly 
from Iran, which seek to spread political Islam. Newspaper articles 
appear periodically depicting certain foreign-backed Muslim 
missionaries as a threat to stability and civil peace, and in some 
cases, as part of an Iranian strategy to destabilize and ultimately 
establish control over Azerbaijan.
    Reflecting the intense popular hostility toward Armenians that 
prevails in the country and the forced departure of most of the 
Armenian population, all Armenian churches, many of them damaged in 
ethnic riots which took place over a decade ago, remain closed. As a 
consequence, ethnic Armenians who remain in Azerbaijan, estimated to 
number between 10,000 and 30,000, are deprived of an opportunity for 
public worship. A similar situation exists in the Armenian-controlled 
portions of Azerbaijan, from which the Armenians forced approximately 
550,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis to flee their homes and where those mosques 
that have not been destroyed are not functioning.
    Jews generally do not suffer from societal discrimination. However, 
according to the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, two Baku synagogues 
were desecrated in the fall of 1998. According to press reports, 
evangelical Christians are not welcome in Nagorno-Karabakh, a part of 
the country not under government control.
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities.--The outbreak of hostilities, 
anti-Armenian riots, and economic collapse in the final years of the 
Soviet Union led to the expulsion of almost all Armenians and the 
departure of Russians and others. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 
Armenians still live in Azerbaijan, mostly women with ethnic 
Azerbaijani or Russian husbands. Most seek to shield their national 
identity. Some have changed their nationality, as reported in their 
passports, to Azerbaijani. With the nearly complete departure of the 
Armenian population, the number of problems reported by this ethnic 
minority has decreased. Armenians have complained of discrimination in 
employment and harassment at schools and workplaces and of refusal of 
local government authorities to pay pensions. The problem of local 
government authorities refusing to grant passports to Armenians has 
been reduced. Armenian widows have had permits to live in Baku revoked. 
However, some persons of mixed Armenian-Azerbaijani descent continue to 
occupy government positions.
    Indigenous ethnic minorities such as the Talysh, Lezghis, Avars, 
and Georgians do not suffer discrimination. However, Meskhetian Turks 
displaced from Central Asia as well as Kurdish displaced persons from 
the Lachin region complain of discrimination.
    In the area of the country controlled by insurgent (Armenian) 
forces, the Armenians forced approximately 800,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis 
to flee their homes. The regime that now controls these areas 
effectively has banned them from all spheres of civil, political, and 
economic life.
Section 6. Worker Rights
    a. The Right of Association.--The overwhelming majority of labor 
unions still operate as they did under the Soviet system and remain 
tightly linked to the Government. The Constitution provides for freedom 
of association, including the right to form labor unions; however, one 
or another subbranch of the government-run Azerbaijani Labor Federation 
organizes most industrial and white-collar workers. Most major 
industries remain state-owned.
    An independent union of oil workers that was displaced by a 
progovernment union in 1997 has not been revived. In 1997 the state oil 
company formed a progovernment union, the Azerbaijan Union of Oil and 
Gas Industry Workers, which took over the former independent oil 
workers union without a vote of the union membership. It continues to 
operate without a vote of its rank and file workers. An independent 
group of oil workers, the Committee to Defend the Rights of Azerbaijani 
Oil Workers, operates outside of established trade union structures and 
promotes the interests of workers in the petroleum sector.
    The Constitution provides for the right to strike, and there are no 
legal restrictions on strikes or provisions for retribution against 
strikers. There were a number of threatened strikes in the oil industry 
during the year over wage arrears, all of which were prevented through 
negotiations and compromises. Oil workers continue to demand 
restoration of wage arrears amounting to several months pay. They do so 
internally but not through public protest. There are no established 
mechanisms to avoid wildcat strikes.
    Unions are free to form federations and to affiliate with 
international bodies; however, none has done so.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--A 1996 law 
provides for collective bargaining agreements to set wages in state 
enterprises. A labor inspectorate was established in 1997. However, 
these laws have not produced an effective system of collective 
bargaining between unions and enterprise management. Government-
appointed boards and directors run the major enterprises and set wages. 
Unions effectively do not participate in determining wage levels. In a 
carryover from the Soviet system, both management and workers are 
considered members of the professional unions.
    There are no export processing zones. A 4-year effort supported by 
the United Nations Development Program to create an economic zone in 
Sumgait was abandoned early in the year; Parliament never considered 
legislation to create such a zone.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--The Constitution 
allows forced or compulsory labor only under states of emergency or 
martial law or as the result of a court decision affecting a condemned 
person, and the Government has not invoked this clause; however, women 
are trafficked for the purpose of forced prostitution (see Section 
6.f.). Two departments in the General Prosecutor's Office (the 
Department of Implementation of the Labor Code and the Department for 
Enforcement of the Law on Minors) enforce the prohibition on forced or 
compulsory labor. There are no constitutional provisions or laws 
specifically prohibiting forced and bonded labor by children, but such 
practices are not known to occur. There were no reports during the year 
of compulsory cotton picking by children or adults.
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--The minimum employment age is 16 years. Primary school 
education is compulsory, free, and universal. Children are normally in 
school until the age of 17. The law allows children between the ages of 
14 and 15 to work with the consent of their parents and limits the 
workweek of children between the ages of 14 and 16 to 24 hours per 
week. Children at the age of 15 may work if the workplace's labor union 
does not object. There is no explicit restriction on the kinds of labor 
that 15-year-old children may perform with union consent. The Labor and 
Social Security Ministry has primary enforcement responsibility for 
child labor laws. With high adult unemployment, there have been few, if 
any, complaints of abuses of child labor laws. The Government does not 
specifically prohibit forced and bonded labor by children, but such 
practices are not known to occur (see Section 6.c.).
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--The Government sets the 
nationwide administrative minimum wage by decree. It is $3.00 (12,500 
manat) per month. This wage is not sufficient to provide a decent 
standard of living for a worker and family. The recommended monthly 
wage level to meet basic subsistence needs was estimated to be $50 
(215,000 manat) per person. Since practically all persons who work earn 
more than the minimum wage, enforcing its low level is not a major 
issue in labor or political debate.
    The disruption of economic links with the rest of the former Soviet 
Union continues to affect employment in many industries. Idle factory 
workers typically receive less than half of their former wage. Under 
these conditions, many workers rely on the safety net of the extended 
family. More workers and unemployed persons turn to second jobs and 
makeshift employment in the informal sector, such as operating the 
family car as a taxi, selling produce from private gardens, or 
operating small roadside shops. Until the collapse of the Russian 
economy in 1998, many Azerbaijanis (estimates range as high as 1 
million) supported themselves on remittances from relatives working in 
Russia, primarily as street traders. This source of support was 
curtailed severely during the year, although reliable statistics as to 
the precise amounts involved are not available. Combinations of these 
and other strategies are the only way for broad sectors of the urban 
population to reach a subsistence income level.
    The legal workweek is 40 hours. There is a 1-hour lunch break per 
day and shorter breaks in the morning and afternoon. The Government 
attempts to enforce this law in the private sector of registered 
private businesses, but does not enforce these rules in the informal 
sector where the majority of citizens make their living.
    Health and safety standards exist, but usually they are ignored in 
the workplace. Workers cannot leave dangerous work conditions without 
fear of losing their jobs.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--Azerbaijan is a source and a transit 
point for trafficked women. The women who are trafficked engage in 
labor, mainly associated with the sex industry, and forced 
prostitution. Women from Azerbaijan usually are sent to the United Arab 
Emirates (UAE) or Western Europe, mainly Germany, to participate as 
workers in the sex industry (for example, in strip clubs) and as 
prostitutes. Women from Iran, Russia, and sometimes Iraq, are 
transported through Baku to the UAE, Europe, and occasionally the 
United States for the same purposes. The problems of trafficking in 
women and sexual exploitation are addressed briefly in the Criminal 
Code, but are largely unknown and ignored. Two of the country's 18 
women's NGO's deal with the problems of trafficking in women and 
prostitution, mainly by concentrating on educating women, particularly 
those in rural areas, about the dangers of such practices.
                                 ______
                                 

                                BELARUS

    Belarus has a government in which nearly all power is concentrated 
in the hands of the President. Since his election in July 1994 to a 5-
year term as the country's first President, Alexandr Lukashenko has 
consolidated power steadily in the executive branch through 
authoritarian means. He used a November 1996 referendum to amend the 
1994 Constitution in order to broaden his powers and extend his term in 
office. The President ignored the then-Constitutional Court's ruling 
that the Constitution could not be amended by referendum. As a result, 
the current political system is based on the 1996 Constitution, which 
was adopted in an unconstitutional manner. Most members of the 
international community criticized the flawed referendum and do not 
recognize the legitimacy of the 1996 Constitution, legislature, or 
Alexandr Lukashenko's continuation in office beyond the legal 
expiration of his term in July. Although the amended Constitution 
provides for a formal separation of powers, the President dominates all 
other branches of government. The current acting legislature was not 
elected directly, but was created out of the remnants of the former 
Parliament, which Lukashenko disbanded soon after the 1996 referendum. 
The Constitution limits the legislature to meeting twice per year for 
no more than a total of 170 days. Presidential decrees made when the 
legislature is out of session have the force of law, except--in 
theory--in those cases restricted by the 1996 Constitution. The 1996 
Constitution also allows the President to issue decrees having the 
force of law in circumstances of ``specific necessity and urgency,'' a 
provision that President Lukashenko has interpreted broadly. The 
judiciary is not independent.
    Law enforcement and internal security responsibilities are shared 
by the Committee for State Security (KGB) and Ministry of Internal 
Affairs (MVD), both of which answer directly to the President. Civilian 
authorities do not maintain effective control of the security forces. 
Under President Lukashenko's direction, the Presidential Guard--
initially created to protect senior officials--continued to act against 
the President's political enemies with no judicial or legislative 
oversight. On May 25, the Law on the State Guard officially entered 
into force. The law, which already had been operative on a de facto 
basis for a number of years, gives the President the right to 
subordinate all security bodies to his personal command.Members of the 
security forces committed numerous human rights abuses.
    The country's political leadership opposes any significant economic 
reforms and remains committed ideologically to a planned economy. 
Government officials claimed that the gross domestic product (GDP) grew 
during the first 6 months of the year by 3 percent, but most 
independent analysts agree that any growth that has occurred was the 
result principally of continued massive credits to the debt-ridden 
state sector. Discriminatory foreign exchange controls have contributed 
to sharp declines in foreign trade and investment. Both exports and 
imports continued to fall given the country's growing isolation from 
world and regional trade flows. Foreign investment fell by 42 percent 
to $30 million during the first 6 months of the year. Per capita GDP 
remained constant at approximately $1,100, but in reality was probably 
much lower. Leading exports are trucks, tractors, chemical fertilizers, 
and fibers. The majority of workers are employed in the state 
industrial and agricultural sectors. Although the unreliability of 
official statistics makes it difficult to assess accurately economic 
conditions, living standards for many segments of society continued to 
decline. Annual inflation was over 350 percent. Following a doubling by 
the Government on May 1, average monthly wages stood at approximately 
$40 at mid-year. Residents of small towns and rural areas, where 
incomes are particularly low and wage arrears more prevalent, sustain 
themselves through unreported economic activity and small gardens.
    The Government's human rights record worsened significantly. The 
Government severely limits the right of citizens to change their 
government, and the President took severe measures to neutralize a 
large-scale public campaign initiated by opposition leaders to draw 
attention to the expiration of his legal term in office on July 20. 
Well-known political figures disappeared under mysterious 
circumstances. Security forces continued to beat political opponents 
and detainees. There were reports of severe hazing in military units 
during the year. Prison conditions remained poor. Security forces 
arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens, and the number of 
apparently politically motivated arrests increased, although most of 
those arrested soon were released. Prolonged detention and delays in 
trials were common and also occurred in a number of politically 
sensitive cases. Although one political prisoner was released, at least 
one other individual whose conviction human rights groups believe was 
politically motivated remains incarcerated. The security services 
infringed on citizens' privacy rights and monitored closely the 
activities of opposition politicians and other segments of the 
population. Restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, and peaceful 
assembly continued, and the Government did not respect freedom of 
association. The Government continued to impose limits on freedom of 
religion, and restricted freedom of movement. Government security 
agents monitored closely human rights monitors and hindered their 
efforts. Domestic violence and discrimination against women remained 
significant problems. Societal anti-Semitism persists. Authorities 
continued to restrict workers' rights to associate freely, organize, 
and bargain.
                        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.--On May 7, former Minister of Internal Affairs 
Yury Zakharenko disappeared shortly after he told his family in a 
telephone conversation that he was on his way home. Zakharenko, a close 
associate of the then-detained former Prime Minister Mikhail Chigir, 
disappeared after voting began in an opposition presidential election 
initiative, in which Chigir was one of the principal candidates. 
Witnesses reported seeing Zakharenko on the evening of his 
disappearance being pushed by several men into an unmarked car. 
According to Zakharenko's family, government security officials did 
little to look for him or inquire into the details of his 
disappearance. On May 19, Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Sivakov 
stated publicly that there was ``no information'' to indicate that a 
crime had been committed against Zakharenko. An investigation into the 
disappearance apparently was begun only several months later after 
another opposition political figure disappeared in mid-September.
    On September 16, following a meeting earlier during that day 
broadcast on state television in which President Lukashenko ordered the 
chiefs of his security services to crackdown on ``opposition scum,'' 
13th Supreme Soviet Deputy Chairman Viktor Gonchar disappeared, along 
with local business associate Anatoliy Krasovsky. Shortly before his 
disappearance, Gonchar telephoned his wife to inform her that he was on 
his way home. Broken glass and blood were discovered later at the site 
where relatives and friends of the men believe the vehicle in which the 
two were travelling may have been stopped. A high-profile 
antigovernment politician, Gonchar was considered an active fund raiser 
for the opposition. Although government authorities denied any 
involvement, there is no public evidence of concrete progress by 
government investigators to resolve the cases.
    In mid-December, former National Bank chairwoman Tamara Vinnikova, 
who disappeared from an apartment where she had been held closely 
guarded under house arrest since November 1997 (see Section 1.d.), 
reappeared. Vinnikova apparently was able to escape from her guards and 
eventually make her way to another country (see Section 1.d.).
    c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment.--The 1996 Constitution provides for the inviolability of 
the person and specifically prohibits torture, as well as cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading treatment; however, police and prison guards beat 
detainees and prisoners. Law enforcement and prison officials may use 
physical force against detainees and prisoners if the latter are 
violent, have refused to obey the instructions of the prison 
administration, or have violated ``maliciously'' the terms of their 
sentences. However, human rights monitors credibly report that 
investigators coerce confessions through beatings and psychological 
pressure. Although such behavior is against the law, the Government 
seldom, if ever, punishes those who commit such abuses. Guards use 
force against detainees to coerce confessions as well as during routine 
activities. Police also beat demonstrators (see Section 2.b.).
    On April 2, plainclothes security officials beat opposition 
activist Halina Kunina following an unsanctioned demonstration in 
Minsk, during which over 20 persons--including 9 minors--were detained. 
Kunina reportedly was hospitalized with a concussion for several days.
    On April 25, Omon special forces militia in the city of Grodno used 
truncheons and tear gas to break up a peaceful demonstration of 
approximately 40 youths who were staging a march to mark the 
anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. Subsequently, nine demonstrators 
were detained briefly for between 2 to 4 days, including one who 
required medical attention for a concussion she received during the 
incident.
    On June 11, following a trial closed to the public, press, and 
international observers, the Supreme Court sentenced Viktar Yancheuski, 
Anatol Haurylau, and Raman Radzikouski to 11, 5, and 4 years in prison, 
respectively (Radzikouski later received amnesty) for their alleged 
roles in the murder of Lukashenko adviser and Mahileu local government 
official Yauhen Mikalutski. Mikalutski was killed in October 1997 by a 
radio-controlled car bomb. Independent local analysts speculate the 
murder was probably connected with the illegal trade of alcohol to 
Russia. Government authorities claimed that Valery Tkachev, another 
suspect in the case, committed suicide by hanging himself in a 
detention facility in December 1997. Relatives of Yancheuski, Haurylau, 
and Radzikouski claimed that government investigators used physical 
coercion against the defendants in order to try to get them to confess 
to a crime that they did not commit. The officers of the Minsk Advisory 
and Monitoring Group (AMG) of Organization for Security and Cooperation 
in Europe (OSCE), who were permitted to interview the defendants, found 
that their statements of beatings while in detention were credible, 
noted that it was clear that they were under heavy psychological 
pressure to cooperate, and that they had not been given access to legal 
counsel.
    On July 17, Uladimir Antonaw, a 20-year-old member of the youth 
branch of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, was detained by 
militia officers in Minsk for allegedly writing anti-presidential 
slogans on public buildings. No charges officially were brought against 
him, but Antonaw was detained for 5 days. Antonaw claims that militia 
officers beat him with truncheons and tried to coerce him to confess. 
The local human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) Spring '96 
confirmed Antonaw's account of the treatment he received while in 
detention.
    Over 70 persons were detained briefly following demonstrations in 
Minsk and other cities on July 21 and July 27. Government security 
officials beat some of the detainees (see Section 1.c.).
    Following the July 21 demonstration, militia officers in Minsk beat 
Oleg Volchek, an opposition activist and chairman of a nongovernmental 
commission investigating the disappearance of former Internal Affairs 
Minister Yury Zakharenko. Volchek, who was treated and released that 
evening for the injuries he sustained, later filed an official 
complaint about the conduct of the militia officers with a local 
prosecutor's office. Charges of ``malicious hooliganism'' filed against 
Volchek for his participation in the demonstration later were dropped; 
however, government authorities also did not take any disciplinary 
action against the officers involved in the beating incident.
    Pavel Znavets, deputy of the 13th Supreme Soviet, illegally 
disbanded by Lukashenko after a 1996 referendum (see Section 3) also 
was detained and beaten following the July 21 demonstration. Militia 
officers in Minsk reportedly also beat Alyaksey Lapitski, a member of 
the Frantsysk Skaryna Belarusian Language Society (BLS), whom they 
detained for participating in the demonstration. A subsequent medical 
examination confirmed Lapitski's account of physical abuse. The BLS 
filed an official complaint with local authorities. There were reports 
that no disciplinary action was taken against the officers involved in 
these cases.
    On July 27, 21-year-old Yawhen Asinski was detained for allegedly 
kicking a militia officer during an opposition demonstration 
commemorating the anniversary of the declaration of Belarusian 
sovereignty from the Soviet Union (see Section 1.d.). At a news 
conference held by the human rights NGO Spring '96, following his 
release on September 6, Asinski claimed that uniformed militia and 
plainclothes government security officers hit him in the abdomen, 
kidneys, and back both before and after his arrest. According to 
Asinski, he was subjected to food and sleep deprivation during his 
first three days in detention and placed with 18 other prisoners in a 
cell meant for up to 10 persons. An OSCE observer who later interviewed 
Asinski found his claims of physical abuse to be credible. Charges of 
``malicious hooliganism'' filed against Asinski remained pending at 
year's end.
    On October 17, uniformed and plainclothes security forces beat 
demonstrators who were detained following a large antigovernment 
demonstration in Minsk (see Sections 1.d. and 2.b.). At least 20 of the 
demonstrators subsequently registered their accounts of physical abuse 
while in custody with the Minsk-based Independent Association for Legal 
Assistance to the Population. On October 19, police officers of the 
Sovietsky District station in Minsk beat 13th Supreme Soviet Deputy and 
well-known independent journalist Valery Schukin following his 
detention for participation in the demonstration.
    On December 13, 13th Supreme Soviet Deputy Andrei Klimov, who had 
been held in pretrial detention on politically motivated charges since 
February 1998 (see Section 1.d.), was beaten severely by prison guards 
after he refused to attend a court hearing on his case. During the 
beating, Klimov suffered a concussion and other injuries. Despite the 
recommendation of examining doctors, Klimov was not permitted immediate 
hospitalization. On December 23, the Procurator General's office 
announced that it would not institute criminal proceedings against the 
officers involved in the incident since they had taken ``adequate 
measures'' with regard to Klimov.
    The Ministry of Defense announced in 1996 that ``dedovshchina,'' 
the practice of hazing new recruits, would no longer be tolerated. 
However, this practice apparently has not abated. According to official 
data, 48 cases of ``dedovshchina'' were reported during the first 8 
months of the year. During 1998 73 cases were reported.
    Prison conditions are poor, and are marked by severe overcrowding, 
shortages of food and medicine, and the spread of diseases such as 
tuberculosis, syphilis, and AIDS. Conditions at prison hospitals also 
are poor, according to human rights monitors. Detainees in pretrial 
detention facilities also reported poor conditions and denial of 
medical treatment, which contributed to their declining health while 
they awaited trial. AMG officers who visited a detention facility in 
Vitebsk during June noted that in 1 cell 16 female prisoners shared 10 
beds, while in another, 14 prisoners between the ages of 14 and 17 
shared 8 beds. During an interview with a government newspaper in 
February, the deputy procurator general acknowledged continued severe 
prison overcrowding. He stated that detention centers and corrective 
labor institutions house 150 percent of the authorized number of 
prisoners, and noted the problem facilitated the spread of contagious 
diseases. On November 3, Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Sivakov 
publicly acknowledged that the country's total prison population 
remained at over 60,000 persons, and that prison conditions in the 
country did not meet ``basic standards.'' A government amnesty for 
lesser offenders that went into effect on January 21 was intended to 
decrease the total prison population by approximately 8,000 inmates, 
but it is unclear to what extent it was implemented. Those convicted of 
alleged ``economic crimes,'' for example, reportedly were granted 
amnesty and released from prison only after payment of financial 
restitution.
    Male and female prisoners are housed separately. Following an 
inspection of a correctional facility for women in Gomel on June 22, 
Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Sivakov noted in an interview with 
the official press that, although it was intended to house only 1,350 
inmates, it currently held 2,800. He commented ``here women are not 
serving time but are suffering, and correctional facility Number 4 is 
our headache.''
    Human rights monitors sometimes were granted access to observe 
prison conditions, although the Government did not honor some requests 
to meet with individual prisoners. OSCE AMG officers, for example, were 
permitted to visit former Minister of Agriculture Leonov and State Farm 
Director Staravoitov (see Section 1.d.) on August 13 and 24, 
respectively. However, an official AMG request to visit Viktor Gonchar, 
who was detained on March 1 for 10 days on charges related to his 
involvement in an opposition presidential initiative, was not granted 
(see Section 1.b.). The AMG was not given access to Gonchar despite an 
appeal by the OSCE that he be released and reports that Gonchar was on 
a potentially health-threatening nonliquid hunger strike (see Section 
2.b.). Despite his weakened condition, government security officials 
released Gonchar upon completion of his sentence by dumping him from a 
car into a pile of snow near his home. Gonchar subsequently disappeared 
in September. (see Section 1.b.)
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--The Government has 
amended only slightly its Soviet-era law on detention, and during the 
year, security forces continued to arrest arbitrarily and detain 
citizens, most often in connection with demonstrations, some of which 
were not authorized. There continued to be politically motivated 
arrests, although most of those arrested soon were released. The 
Criminal Procedure Code provides that police may detain a person 
suspected of a crime for 24 hours without a warrant, within which time 
the procurator is notified. The procurator then has 48 hours to review 
the legality of the detention. If the procurator deems the detention 
legal, a suspect can be held for a maximum of l0 days without formal 
charge. However, usually once the decision is made to hold a suspect, a 
formal charge is made. Once a suspect is charged, a trial must be 
initiated within 2 months, although in some cases the Procurator 
General can extend pretrial detention to 18 months to allow for further 
investigation. Alternatively, a suspect who has been charged can be 
released on a written pledge not to flee, in which case there is no 
time limit on the pretrial investigation. The law allows detainees the 
right to apply to the court (rather than the procurator) to determine 
the legality of their detentions. However, in practice, suspects' 
appeals to have their detentions reviewed by the courts frequently are 
suppressed because detainees are at the mercy of investigators, and 
detention officials are unwilling to forward the appeals. There is no 
provision for bail under the current legal code. According to the 
Belarusian-Helsinki Committee, in late 1998 there were 64,000 persons 
in detention.
    By law detainees may be allowed unlimited access to legal counsel, 
and, for those who cannot afford counsel, the court appoints a lawyer. 
However, investigators routinely fail to inform detainees of their 
rights and conduct preliminary interrogations without giving detainees 
an opportunity to consult counsel. The information gained then is used 
against the defendant in court. Even when appointed by the State, 
defense attorneys are subordinate to the executive branch of power.
    Detainees and lawyers both report restrictions on consultations. 
Following the arrest of opposition leader and former Prime Minister 
Mikhail Chigir on March 30, government authorities initially refused 
his request that his wife, an attorney, officially represent him. 
However, this decision later was changed to allow Mrs. Chigir to act in 
this capacity. Chigir was released on November 30, but informed that he 
still faced trial on charges of negligence and abuse of power. 
Government authorities have disbarred or threatened to disbar a number 
of attorneys who have been involved in politically sensitive cases.
    Although on August 10 the Ministry of Justice agreed to register 
the Association for Legal Assistance to the Population (ALAP), an 
independent organization that provides legal assistance to those who 
have suffered from police brutality or political persecution, it 
subjected the organization to a comprehensive ``inspection'' on October 
20, shortly after a large antigovernment demonstration during which the 
ALAP maintained that a large number of persons were beaten by 
government security officials. On November 9, the Ministry of Justice 
suspended the ALAP's license due to such irregularities as alleged 
violations of the advertising law in its newspaper advertisements. On 
December 28, the Ministry of Justice informed the ALAP that its license 
to provide legal services would not be renewed. However, the ALAP 
maintains that a license is required only to work with business 
organizations, and intends to continue to try to assist private 
individuals.
    Prominent human rights attorney Vera Stremkovskaya, who was 
threatened with disbarment by the Ministry of Justice and Minsk 
Collegium of Advocates in late 1998 for comments she made during a 
foreign trip that were critical of human rights violations in Belarus, 
was charged with slander by a local prosecutor's office on April 14. 
The charge stemmed from comments she made during judicial proceedings 
in defense of Vasiliy Staravoitov, a state farm director charged with 
embezzlement. The procurator general's office pursued the case 
throughout the year and called Stremkovskaya in for official 
questioning on September 29. However, the charge subsequently was 
dropped in late December due to lack of evidence. The treatment of 
Stremkovskaya highlighted the lack of a truly independent bar 
association and political interference in the legal process (see 
Section 1.e.).
    As in 1998, the Government again held hundreds of political 
detainees during the year. Most were peaceful participants in 
antigovernment demonstrations who were held anywhere from several hours 
to several days (see Section 2.b.). For example, Yawhen Skocha, a 
deputy chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) youth movement, 
was given a 10-day ``administrative'' sentence on February 15 for 
leading an unsanctioned, but peaceful, antigovernment demonstration the 
previous day in Minsk, following which a total of 15 persons were 
detained briefly. On June 10, Skocha was given an additional 1-year 
suspended sentence on a charge related to the demonstration--
``organization of a group action in violation of public order.''
    On May 1, 19 opposition activists, including the chairman of the 
Belarusian Social Democratic Party (BSDP), were detained briefly for 
attempting to participate in an official Labor Day celebratory event in 
Minsk. Viktor Babayed, the chairman of the Belarusian Congress of 
Democratic Trade Unions, also was detained briefly.
    On July 21, government security officers arrested and briefly 
detained 53 persons who participated in an unsanctioned, but peaceful, 
antigovernment demonstration. On July 27, 19 persons were detained for 
participating in an unsanctioned, but peaceful, demonstration to 
commemorate Belarus's 1990 declaration of sovereignty from the Soviet 
Union. BSDP chairman Mikalay Statkevich was detained following the 
demonstration and given a 10-day prison sentence for organizing the 
demonstration. However, Yawhen Asinski was held until September 6 (see 
Section 1.c.).
    On October 17, approximately 93 persons were arrested for 
participating in a large unsanctioned demonstration and protest march. 
In a series of assembly line-style court judgements, roughly 17 persons 
were sentenced to prison terms of up to 15 days, and 19 persons were 
fined. A number of opposition leaders associated with the 
demonstration, including Mikolai Statkevich and Lyudmila Gryaznova were 
arrested at their homes on the evening of October 17. A number of other 
opposition political figures went into hiding to escape wide-ranging 
roundups conducted by government security officers. Gryaznova 
subsequently was fined approximately $500 (300 million rubles) while 
Statkevich was released on October 31 following the intervention of the 
chairman of the OSCE parliamentary assembly committee on Belarus.
    On October 19, 13th Supreme Soviet Deputy and United Civic Party 
deputy chairman Anatoliy Lebedko was arrested for his role in the 
October 17 demonstration. He was given a 10-day sentence even though he 
did not participate in the protest march that ended in clashes with 
security officials. Despite backing out from participating in the 
demonstration and protest march, opposition Youth Front member Yevtgeny 
Afnagel was given a 15-day sentence. While searching for his father, 
government security briefly detained the son of independent newspaper 
editor Pavel Zhuk for questioning.
    Unidentified, nonuniformed officials working for the security 
services regularly apprehend participants in antigovernment 
demonstrations (see Section 2.b.). There are credible reports that 
plainclothes security officials sometimes infiltrate antigovernment 
demonstrations in order to either report on opposition protesters or 
provoke clashes between demonstrators and police. Security officers on 
occasion also preemptively have apprehended organizers and individuals 
considered to be potential participants prior to demonstrations, 
including those that had been sanctioned by the Government.
    Security force officials detained journalists and NGO officials 
during the year (See Sections 2.b. and 4.).
    Following demonstrations, government security officials have held 
some detainees incommunicado.
    In addition to the hundreds of antigovernment protestors, whom 
authorities held for several hours or days, there were several 
prominent political detainees whom the Government held for prolonged 
periods in pretrial detention, some for over a year.
    On March 30, opposition leader and former Prime Minister Mikhail 
Chigir was arrested on charges of alleged financial impropriety and 
exceeding his authority during his tenure as a head of a state bank 
several years previously. Chigir's arrest occurred just prior to a 
public ceremony to register his participation in an opposition-
organized presidential election initiative aimed at drawing attention 
to the upcoming end of Lukashenko's legal 5-year term in office. It 
also followed several warnings from government security officials to 
Chigir that to cease his political activities. He remained in pretrial 
detention until November, although the procurator's office failed to 
present any substantive or specific evidence of his alleged crimes. 
Despite protests from the OSCE and a number of foreign governments 
Chagir remained in pretrial detention until November 30. Trial 
proceedings, which government authorities indicated would be followed 
through, remained pending as of year's end.
    In February 1998, police arrested Andrei Klimov, a successful 
entrepreneur and member of the Parliament that was dissolved in late 
1996, on charges of embezzlement and other financial irregularities. 
Kilmov's supporters and some human rights observers believe that his 
arrest was politically motivated, because Klimov is an outspoken critic 
of President Lukashenko and had participated in a commission that 
examined violations of the law and the Constitution by the President. 
Klimov's period of pretrial detention was extended on several 
occasions. He was beaten severely by prison guards in December (see 
Section 1.c.). As of year's end, Klimov remained in detention while his 
trial, which began on July 22, continued.
    Former director of the joint-stock agribusiness (Rassvet) Vasiliy 
Staravoitov and former Agriculture Minister Vasily Leonov were arrested 
in late 1997 for allegedly embezzling state credits. Authorities denied 
appeals for their release on their own recognizance due to age and poor 
health. The trial of the 75-year-old Staravoitov, which officially 
began in November 1998, was delayed repeatedly due to his weak physical 
condition aggravated by poor prison conditions. On May 30, Staravoitov 
was found guilty and sentenced to foreiture of property and 2 years 
(including time already served) in a labor camp. Staravoitov was 
released on November 11 after completion of his sentence. Domestic 
human rights groups believe that both Staravoitov and Leonov were 
arrested to draw attention away from a poor harvest on heavily 
subsidized state farms. The Government is dedicated to maintaining a 
Soviet model of agriculture and Rassvet's demonstrated independence in 
implementing reforms not sanctioned by the Government apparently posed 
a threat to such efforts. Immediately following Staravoitov's arrest, 
the Government renationalized his company. The trial of Leonov, which 
began in Minsk on August 17, was ongoing at year's end. While in 
detention, Leonov has suffered two heart attacks. Leonov also initiated 
a hunger strike to protest the initial refusal by prison authorities to 
provide him with medical supplies brought by his relatives.
    Former National Bank chairwoman Tamara Vinnikova was arrested in 
January 1997 on allegations of malfeasance during her previous tenure 
as head of a state bank. The timing of her arrest, which coincided with 
her increasingly public challenges to President Lukashenko's economic 
policies, led observers to suspect a political motive. Due to her 
failing health, following 10 months in a KGB facility, Vinnikova was 
allowed to continue her period of pretrial detention under house arrest 
beginning in November 1997. While under house arrest, her visitors and 
incoming phone calls were monitored around-the-clock by guards from the 
Presidential Security Service. On April 8, Vinnikova disappeared. She 
was apparently able to escape from her guards and eventually make it to 
another country. Following her reappearance in mid-December, Vinnikova 
claimed in a radio news interview she went into hiding in order to 
escape a suspected conspiracy against her life (see Section 1.b.).
    Statistics on the current number of persons in pretrial detention 
and the average length of pretrial detention were not available. As of 
August 1998, there were approximately 11,000 persons in pretrial 
detention.
    The Government does not use forced exile.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--The Constitution provides for an 
independent judiciary; however in practice the judiciary is not 
independent and largely is unable to act as a check on the executive 
branch and its agents. Reforms adopted to support the independence of 
the judiciary in 1995 were not implemented. Without major structural 
reforms, the independence of the judiciary cannot be realized. The 
November 1996 constitutional referendum further subordinated the 
judiciary to the executive branch by giving the President the power to 
appoint 6 of the 12 members of the Constitutional Court, including the 
chairman. The remaining six are appointed by the Council of the 
Republic, which itself is composed of individuals appointed by the 
President or elected by individuals influenced by the President. The 
President also appoints the chairmen of the Supreme Court and the 
Supreme Economic Court. The President also has authority under the 
Constitution to appoint and dismiss all district and military judges.
    The criminal justice system follows the former Soviet model and has 
three tiers: District courts; regional courts; and the Supreme Court. 
Several modifications have been made, brought about by the passage of 
the new Constitution, including direct presidential appointments. The 
Constitutional Court was established in 1994 to adjudicate serious 
constitutional issues, but, dependent on the executive branch, it does 
not challenge presidential initiatives. In addition the Constitutional 
Court has no means to enforce its decisions.
    Judges adjudicate trials; only in capital offense trials in which 
the defendant pleads not guilty and demands a jury trial do juries 
determine innocence or guilt. Judges are dependent on the Ministry of 
Justice for sustaining court infrastructure and on local executive 
branch officials for providing their personal housing. In addition 
judges owe their positions to the President. Although the Procurator's 
Office categorically denies it, there are widespread and credible 
reports that ``telephone justice'' (the practice of executive and local 
authorities dictating to the courts the outcome of trials) continues.
    On February 24, Belarusian judge Yury Sushkov announced at a press 
conference in Germany that he had asked for political asylum from 
German authorities. Sushkov claimed that KGB officials forced him to 
sentence two Belarusian customs officers to several years in prison, 
despite a lack of conclusive evidence of their guilt. He stated that he 
could no longer, ``make dishonest decisions and act against principles 
of juridical consciousness.''
    On August 5, while on an inspection tour in the Brest oblast in the 
western part of the country, Lukashenko told local reporters that he 
personally exercised control over ``certain'' ongoing judicial cases, 
including that of former Prime Minister and opposition leader Mikhail 
Chigir (see Section 1.d.). Lukashenko stated, ``I have them under 
control, I am not going to allow any injustice there myself.'' On 
August 30, during a government interagency commission on crime covered 
by the official media, President Lukashenko reportedly stated, ``It is 
natural for the Head of State to exercise control over one criminal 
case or another . . . especially in our country, where the Head of 
State controls all the branches of power--legislative, executive, and 
judicial.''
    Prosecutors, like the courts, are organized into offices at the 
district, regional, and republic levels. They are ultimately 
responsible to, and serve at the pleasure of, the Procurator General 
who, according to the Constitution, is appointed by the Council of the 
Republic.
    In May 1997, Lukashenko issued presidential decree number 12, 
``Several Measures on Improving the Practice of Lawyers and Notaries,'' 
which, according to international legal experts and human rights 
monitors, seriously compromised the independence of lawyers from the 
Government. The decree, which ostensibly was issued in response to 
allegedly exorbitant attorneys' fees, subordinated all lawyers to the 
Ministry of Justice, which controls the licensing of lawyers, and 
placed the bar association under much greater Ministry of Justice 
control.
    During 1997 and 1998, the Government used the decree to strip 
several lawyers of their licenses, including President Lukashenko's 
political opponents, such as former Supreme Soviet chairman Mecheslav 
Gryb, and prominent defense attorneys Garry Pogonyailo and Nadezhda 
Dudareva. Human rights activist and defense attorney Vera Stremkovskaya 
was threatened with disbarment following her public criticisms of the 
Government while on a visit abroad in 1998. She was charged with 
``slander'' in April for comments she made in a court while defending a 
client. The charge was dropped later in the year (see Section 1.d.).
    The Constitution provides for public trials, although exceptions 
can be made in cases established by law (for example, in cases of rape 
or on grounds of national security). Defendants have the legal right to 
attend proceedings, confront witnesses, and present evidence on their 
own behalf. However, these rights are not always respected in practice. 
Defendants' legal right to be represented by counsel also is not always 
respected in practice. While the 1996 Constitution establishes a 
presumption of innocence, in practice defendants frequently must prove 
their innocence.
    Both defendants and prosecutors have the right of appeal, and most 
criminal cases are appealed, according to legal sources. In appeals 
neither defendants nor witnesses appear before the court; the court 
merely reviews the protocol and other documents from the lower court's 
trial. Appeals rarely result in reversals of verdicts. In criminal 
cases, the prosecution has the right to appeal an acquittal for retrial 
to a higher court on the same charge.
    On July 22, according to the OSCE's AMG, the well-known lawyer, 
journalist, human rights activist, and 13th Supreme Soviet deputy 
Valeri Shchukin was detained illegally in a court building while 
attempting to attend the trial of Andrei Klimov (see Section 1.d.). The 
trial proceedings were open to the public. In front of OSCE observers 
and acting without any legal basis or written order, militia officers 
removed Shchukin from the building by force. Shchukin summarily was 
given a 15-day prison sentence for ``petty hooliganism'' by a judge 
who, by way of explanation to one of the OSCE officers, stated that the 
action was taken because Shchukin was ``not normal.'' Shchukin 
subsequently was released after serving 7 days of the sentence.
    Antigovernment protestors arrested after demonstrations were 
subjected to assembly line style trials, sometimes without the right to 
counsel or the opportunity to present evidence or call witnesses.
    On February 23, political prisoner and BNF youth front member 
Aleksei Shidlovskiy was released from prison 2 days prior to the 
conclusion of one year of an 18-month sentence for ``malicious 
hooliganism with extreme cynicism'' in a hard-regime labor camp. The 
charges stemmed from his alleged spray painting of antipresidential 
slogans in August 1997. Despite his youth (Shidlovskiy turned 19 while 
in detention) and the nonviolent nature of the charges, Shidlovskiy was 
denied release pending trial. During the trial, Shidlovskiy and Vadim 
Labkovicyh, another teenage defendant in the case, were held in a 
guarded cage as if they were dangerous criminals. A representative of 
Human Rights Watch who observed the trial in February 1998 referred to 
it as an ``absurd parody of criminal justice and a grotesque show trial 
aimed at intimidating young people from expressing their opposition to 
the current regime.'' The sentence of Labkovich, who also was held for 
6 months in pretrial detention, was suspended and no further action has 
been taken against him. The prolonged and harsh pretrial detention, the 
punitive use of what apparently was a relatively minor charge, and the 
disproportionate nature of the sentences handed down to Shidlovskiy and 
Labkovich were both excessive and reminiscent of Soviet-era practices 
(see Section 1.c.).
    Vladimir Kudinov was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to 7 years in 
prison and full confiscation of property for allegedly bribing a police 
officer. He is considered by many opposition activists and human rights 
observers to be a victim of political persecution. Prior to his arrest, 
Kudinov was an active and vocal critic of President Lukashenko. 
Government authorities first began to harass Kudinov in 1995 during his 
campaign for a seat in the Supreme Soviet. In 1996 Kudinov signed an 
impeachment petition against Lukashenko. His conviction and lengthy 
sentence appear to fit a government pattern of using charges of alleged 
economic related crimes to silence and intimidate critics. As part of a 
general presidential amnesty, Kudinov's sentence was reduced by 1 year 
in January.
    f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--The Constitution provides for protection against 
illegal interference in a citizen's personal life, including invasion 
of privacy, telephone, and other communications. However, the 
Government does not respect these rights in practice. Although the 
inviolability of the home also is provided for by the Constitution, 
which states that, ``no one shall have the right to enter, without 
legal reason, the dwelling and other legal property of a citizen 
against such a citizen's will,'' in practice, government monitoring of 
residences, telephones, and computers continued unabated. The KGB is 
widely believed to enter homes without warrants, conduct unauthorized 
searches, and read mail. Political, human rights, and other NGO's 
believe that their conversations and correspondence are monitored 
routinely by the security services. Some opposition figures have 
reported a reluctance to visit some foreign embassies due to fear of 
reprisal.
    Nearly all opposition political figures assume that the Government 
monitors their activities and conversations. The Lukashenko Government 
did nothing to refute these assumptions. Militia officers assigned to 
stand outside diplomatic missions are known to keep records of visits 
by political opposition leaders. In addition even government officials 
do not appear to be exempt from monitoring.
    On February 12, militia in Gomel, claiming a bomb threat in the 
building, conducted an illegal search of the local office of the 
Belarusian Helsinki Committee, a human rights NGO. No bomb was found, 
but the militia officers seized 14,000 leaflets concerning the recently 
declared opposition presidential election initiative.
    On April 26, just short of a month after his arrest on charges of 
alleged financial impropriety, the office of former Prime Minister 
Mikhail Chigir was broken into. A computer containing data related to 
an opposition political campaign in which Chigir was participating was 
stolen, along with other equipment. Opposition activists allege that, 
in view of the almost certain continual government surveillance of the 
office, government security officials likely were behind the incident.
    On May 11, government security officers in Minsk used the pretext 
of a bomb threat to search the offices of the Francisak Skaryna 
Belarusian Language Society (BLS). The involvement of the BLS in an 
ongoing opposition presidential election initiative suggests a 
political motive for the incident.
    On May 14, Ministry of Interior officers searched the Minsk office 
of Irex/Promedia, an international organization involved in the 
implementation of projects to strengthen independent newspapers, 
without legal authorization. The local head of the organization, her 
daughter, and a staff member were questioned by these officers over a 
period of several hours. The OSCE later protested the incident with 
government authorities.
    On September 11 and October 28, under the pretext of looking for 
the offices of an independent newspaper that tax inspectors were trying 
to shut down, police officers attempted to search the headquarters of 
the opposition United Civic Party in Minsk without a warrant.
    The KGB, MVD, and certain border guard detachments have the right 
to request permission to install wiretaps, but under the law must 
obtain a prosecutor's permission before installation. The Presidential 
Guard (or security service) formed in 1995 reportedly conducted 
surveillance activities of the President's political opponents. There 
is no judicial or legislative oversight of the Presidential Guard's 
budget or activities, and the executive branch repeatedly has thwarted 
attempts to exercise such oversight.
    In June the National Assembly revised the administrative offenses 
code to increase the penalties for those who obstruct KGB officers. For 
example, a new article prohibits preventing KGB officers from entering 
the premises of a company, establishment or organization, and for 
failing to allow audits or checks to be made, as well as for 
unjustified restriction or refusal to provide information, including 
access to company information systems and data bases.
    In early 1997, the Ministry of Communications renegotiated 
contracts for supplying telephone service. The new contracts forbid 
subscribers from using telephone communications for purposes that run 
counter to state interests and public order. The Ministry has the right 
to terminate telephone service to those who breach this provision.
    Presidential decree number 218, issued in March 1997, prohibits the 
import and export of printed, audio, and visual information that could 
``damage'' the economic and political interests of the country (see 
Section 2.a.).
    In October security forces searching for his father detained the 
young son of a newspaper editor (see Section 1.d.).
    On November 23, President Lukashenko signed decree number 40, which 
allowed the Government to nationalize the property of any individual if 
the President determines that the individual has caused financial 
damage to the State.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
    a. Freedom of Speech and Press.--The Constitution provides for 
freedom of speech, as well as the freedom to receive, retain, and 
disseminate information; however, the Government restricts these rights 
in practice. The executive branch continued its suppression of freedom 
of speech. Despite the constitutional provisions, a 1998 government 
decree limited citizens' right to express their opinions. As part of an 
overall crackdown on opposition activity, the Government stepped up its 
campaign of harassment against the independent media. Although the 
Constitution prohibits a monopoly of mass media, the Government also 
continued to restrict severely the right to a free press through near-
monopolies on the means of production and on national level broadcast 
media and by denying accreditation of journalists critical of the 
regime. The Government also kept up economic pressure on the 
independent media by pressuring advertisers to withdraw advertisements, 
as well as through fines and other administrative harassment. Employees 
at some state-run enterprises are discouraged from subscribing to 
independent newspapers and journals.
    In 1996 President Lukashenko signed a decree ordering that all 
editors in chief of state-supported newspapers would henceforth be 
official state employees and would become members of the appropriate 
local level government council. Another decree granted the Ministry of 
Press the authority to assign graduates of state supported journalism 
schools to work in state-owned media organizations as a means of 
payment for their schooling. These decrees remain in effect.
    Presidential decree number 5, issued in 1997, prohibits a range of 
broadly defined activities and limits freedom of expression. For 
example, the decree prohibits individuals from carrying placards or 
flags bearing emblems that are not registered officially with the 
State, as well as ``emblems, symbols, and posters whose content is 
intended to harm the State and public order, rights, and legal 
interests of the citizens.'' The decree also bans activities that are 
``humiliating to the dignity and honor of the executive persons of 
state bodies.''
    On March 2, government authorities in the Lenin region of Grodno 
launched an investigation of the activities of cartoonist Alexsei Surov 
on suspicion of insulting the honor and dignity of high-ranking 
government officials. The investigation was opened on the basis of a 
small booklet of political cartoons about President Lukashenko by 
Surov. Surov's workplace at the Grodno puppet theater also was 
searched. A local prosecutor reportedly later decided to close the 
case.
    On October 14, police officers in Minsk detained for 5 hours a 13 
year old boy, Roman Shkor, who was handing out leaflets advertising an 
upcoming opposition demonstration. The leaflets were confiscated.
    On November 7, police officers in the town of Borisov briefly 
detained Alesya Yasyuk, a member of the Belarusian Social Democratic 
Party (BDSP), after she displayed at a public event the traditional 
white-red-white national flag now associated with the opposition.
    The Defamation Law makes no distinction between private and public 
persons for the purposes of lawsuits for defamation of character. A 
public figure who has been criticized for poor performance in office 
may ask the public prosecutor to sue the newspaper that printed the 
criticism. In June 1998, the lower house of the National Assembly 
approved a bill that stipulated that public insults or libel against 
the President could be punished by up to 4 years in prison, 2 years in 
a labor camp, or a large fine. However, there were no reports that 
anyone has been arrested or charged subsequently for this offense, and 
the bill apparently was devised principally as a means of intimidation.
    In 1997 the Council of Ministers issued a decree that prohibited 
and restricted the movement of goods across customs borders. The decree 
specifically prohibited the import and export of printed, audio, and 
video materials, or other news media containing information that could 
damage the economic and political interests of the country. Some 
bulletins affiliated with the opposition published outside of the 
country appeared to be targeted by the decree, and there were a number 
of incidents in 1997-98 in which customs officials confiscated 
opposition materials at the country's borders.
    In January 1998, more stringent regulatory provisions, introduced 
by amendments to the Law on Press and Other Mass Media that were 
adopted by the Council of the Republic in December 1997, went into 
effect. The new regulatory provisions grant greater authority to the 
Government to ban and censor critical reporting. For example the State 
Committee on the Press was given authority to suspend for 3 months 
publication of periodicals or newspapers without a court ruling.
    In December 1998, new regulations went into effect restricting the 
distribution of legal information to specially licensed media. The 
regulations required the independent media that publish legal acts to 
apply for licenses from a commission under the Ministry of Justice; 
several independent informational bulletins subsequently were denied 
licenses.
    On December 17, President Lukashenko signed new amendments to the 
law ``On Press and Other Media.'' The amendments ban the media from 
disseminating information on behalf of political parties, trade unions, 
and NGO's that are not registered with the Ministry of Justice.
    Independent newspapers are widely available in Minsk, but outside 
of the capital most towns carry only local newspapers, only some of 
which are independent. On February 17, the State Committee on the Press 
officially warned six independent newspapers (Naviny, Narodnaya Volya, 
Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta, Imya, Zhoda, and Pahonya) that they 
risked closure if they continued to publish information about an 
opposition presidential election initiative aimed at drawing attention 
to the approaching end of Lukashenko's 5-year legal presidential term. 
Mikhail Podgainy, the head of the State Committee on the Press, 
announced publicly that the newspapers would be shut if they ignored 
the warning. On May 13, the Supreme Economic Court dismissed appeals 
filed by the independent newspapers that there were no grounds on which 
the State Committee on the Press could issue such an official warning.
    On May 26, the State Committee on the Press issued its second 
warning to Naviny after it published an article entitled ``Carbuncules 
of Lawfulness'' for which the newspaper was accused of ``inciting 
social discord and defaming police officers.'' The Supreme Economic 
Court upheld the warning on August 26, following an appeal by Naviny. 
On June 24, the State Committee on the Press issued its second warning 
to Imya for an article the newspaper published relating to President 
Lukashenko. Under the December 1997 amendments to the Law on Press and 
Other Media, newspapers can be banned if two warnings are issued. The 
Committee to Protect Journalists and Article 19, another international 
NGO, both sent open letters to the Government expressing concern about 
the possible closure of independent newspapers.
    In addition to warnings from the State Committee on the Press, the 
judiciary and security services also were used to exert pressure on the 
independent media. For example on July 26, Judge Nadezhda Chmara, the 
presiding judge in the trial of former state farm director Staravoitov 
(see Section 1.d.), won a libel suit against Belorusskaya Delovaya 
Gazeta. Chmara claimed that the newspaper in one of its articles on the 
case had accused her indirectly of professional misconduct. Belorusskya 
Delovaya Gazeta was ordered to print a retraction and to pay the judge 
an unprecedented fine of approximately $6,550 (or 2 billion rubles at 
the then official rate). The ruling is currently under appeal by the 
newspaper. The ruling was appealed by the newspaper.
    On September 24, the newspaper Naviny lost a libel suit brought 
against it by National Security Council Chairman Viktor Sheiman for an 
article that had implied that Sheiman possessed property valued beyond 
what his official salary could provide. Sheiman apparently was ordered 
to file the lawsuit during a September 16 meeting with President 
Lukashenko. The newspaper and one of its reporters were ordered to pay 
a combined fine of approximately $30,000 (10 billion rubles at the then 
official rate). The unprecedented size of the fine forced Naviny, which 
published its last issue on September 29, into bankruptcy. Newsprint 
owned by the paper was confiscated by government authorities, and its 
bank account was frozen. On October 26, tax officials in Minsk 
inventoried the personal property of Naviny editor Pavel Zhuk. On 
November 8, a Minsk city court upheld the libel judgement, which had 
been appealed by Naviny.
    On September 30, the Belarusian State Committee on the Press 
annulled the registration certificates of nine independent newspapers 
and periodicals, including a successor newspaper to Naviny, on the 
pretext that they had not submitted documentary approval of their 
office addresses. The registration certificates later were renewed on 
November 4.
    On March 2, government security officials raided the offices of the 
independent newspaper Pahonya in Grodno and confiscated material 
related to the opposition's May 16 presidential election initiative. On 
April 7, KGB officers detained and questioned Naviny journalist Aleh 
Hruzdzilovich for several hours. Hruzdzilovich recently had written an 
article entitled, ``A Secret Plan Against the Opposition,'' based on a 
reportedly confidential government document outlining methods to be 
used to crack down on the opposition.
    On July 22, militia officers and government prosecutors searched 
the offices of Imya, confiscated computer equipment, and briefly 
detained for questioning chief editor Irina Khalip. A local 
prosecutor's office in Minsk recently had begun an investigation into a 
criminal case of libel against the newspaper for an article in which it 
detailed infighting and high level corruption within the Government. In 
a letter sent to the Minister of Justice, the Paris-based human rights 
NGO Reporters Sans Frontieres protested the judicial harassment of 
Khalip.
    Also in July, OSCE Freedom of Media representative Freimunt Duve 
issued a public statement protesting reported threats by government 
security officers against Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta chief editor 
Piotr Martsev, whose paper also had published a series of articles 
detailing government corruption and infighting. On October 4, Duve sent 
a letter of complaint to the Foreign Minister concerning the 
Government's ``continued attempts to stifle freedom of expression.''
    On November 4, two independent journalists were barred from 
attending a government conference on health care issues held at Brest 
regional executive committee offices. However, state media 
representatives were permitted to cover the event. A spokesperson for 
the Brest regional executive committee explained that, in addition to 
accreditation, journalists were required to have the permission of the 
executive committee chairman to observe its meetings.
    Until government authorities shut it down during 1996, Radio 101.2 
had been the sole Belarusian language independent station in the 
country. The Belarusian Patriotic Union of Youth, a government-
subsidized presidential youth organization, was permitted to take 
control of Radio 101.2.
    State-controlled Belarusian television and radio (B-TR) maintains 
its monopoly as the only nationwide television station. Its news 
programs regularly featured reporting heavily biased in favor of the 
Government and refused to provide an outlet for opposing viewpoints. 
Local, independent television stations operated in some areas, and were 
relatively unimpeded in reporting on local news. However, some of these 
stations reported that they were under pressure not to report on 
national-level issues or were subject to censorship.
    Broadcasts into the country from Russian television stations 
represent the only significant source of independent information from 
broadcast media and constitute a frequent source of irritation to the 
Lukashenko Government. However, to transmit their video material to 
Moscow, Russian stations rely on the B-TR broadcasting facility. 
According to Russian television crews, authorities sometimes have tried 
to limit access to this facility, although there were no reports of 
this occurring during the year.
    On May 21, the government newspaper Respublika criticized 
Belarusian language programs broadcast by a Polish radio station in 
Warsaw for negative reporting about President Lukashenko.
    In March 1998, the presidential administration issued an internal 
directive entitled ``On Strengthening Countermeasures Against Articles 
in the Opposition Press.'' The directive specifically lists 10 
independent media organizations covered by these provisions, and 
prohibits government officials from making comments or distributing 
documents to non-state media. It also forbids state enterprises from 
advertising in non-state media. Although the directive does not 
restrict directly independent media or impinge on the right of citizens 
to receive information, it does restrict government officials in 
speaking to the independent media and gives further advantages to the 
state press.
    On January 6, Anna Shidlovskaya, a correspondent for the 
independent news service Belapan and newspaper Belorusskaya Delovaya 
Gazeta, was prevented from attending an open session of the Gomel 
executive committee by the head of the committee's information 
department. The independent Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) 
later protested the decision to order Shidlovskaya out of a conference 
hall 5 minutes before the executive committee was due to meet.
    A 1997 Council of Ministers decree nullified the accreditation of 
all correspondents and required all foreign media correspondents to 
apply for reaccreditation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the 
application form for accreditation requested biographic information, as 
well as a record of the applicant's journalistic activity. Journalists 
who were residents of Belarus also were required to register with the 
state tax authorities. The impact of the decree is still unclear, 
although it does not appear that the Government specifically invoked 
the decree during 1998 or this year as a tool to exclude certain 
journalists.
    On June 20, the poet Vladimir Neklyayev, who chaired the Belarusian 
Writers' Union, sought asylum in Poland. Neklyayev accused government 
authorities of disrespect for the Belarusian language, history, and 
culture and claimed that recent financial inspections of a magazine 
that he edited were motivated politically.
    On August 11, the international NGO Reporters Sans Frontiers 
described Belarus as an enemy of the Internet. A public statement 
issued by the organization noted that citizens were not free to explore 
Internet independently. Although there are several Internet providers 
in the country they all are state controlled. The Government's state 
monopoly on Internet service offers high prices, poor quality, and 
limited service, and allows for the monitoring of practically all e-
mail traffic. Although the Government has full control, it does not 
appear to be cutting off access entirely, and those who do have access 
appear to be able to contact a full range of unfiltered international 
web sites.
    The Government restricts academic freedom. A sharply critical Human 
Rights Watch report released in Minsk on July 27 detailed government 
restrictions on academic freedom. The report noted that the Lukashenko 
Government had suppressed research on controversial topics, 
recentralized academic decision making, and maintained a ban on 
political activity on campuses. At the same time, a ``systematic 
crackdown'' on political dissent on campuses had targeted outspoken 
students and lecturers who were threatened with expulsion, often for 
their off-campus political activity. The report also asserted that 
state university authorities issue reprimands and warnings to 
politically active lecturers, independent historians, and other 
academics. It stated that university employees who challenge the status 
quo are told to curtail political activities or change the focus of 
their academic inquiry. University administrators target research into 
politically sensitive issues, such as the Belarusian independence 
movement during the Soviet era, a theme that is seen to challenge the 
State's policy of integration with Russian and is discouraged actively.
    The Government continued to harass students engaged in 
antigovernment activities, such as demonstrations. Aleksey Shidlovskiy, 
who was released in February from a hard labor facility where he had 
been sentenced for spray painting antipresidential graffiti (see 
Section 1.e.), was expelled from his university while in pretrial 
detention. Members of the propresidential, government-funded Belarusian 
Patriotic Union of Youth served as the regime's watchdog against 
antigovernment activities. Moreover, members of the Union reportedly 
received preferential treatment at state schools.
    On December 21, Ales Ostrovsky, a professor at the Grodno State 
Medical Institute, was detained for 2 days and reprimanded by local 
authorities for allegedly ``violating public discipline'' after he 
attempted to speak out against the Belarus-Russia Union Treaty during a 
meeting of the pro-Lukashenko Belarusian Patriotic Youth Union. He also 
reportedly was warned by the rector of his university not to violate 
``labor discipline.''
    In 1997 the Council of Ministers issued a decree, effective as of 
the 1997-98 academic year, requiring students who receive free 
university education from the state to accept jobs assigned by the 
Government upon graduation. It remains unclear to what extent this 
decree is actually enforced. On May 30, 15 members of the youth wing of 
the Belarusian social democratic party staged a demonstration in Minsk 
against the practice, including the reported assigning of students to 
jobs in areas contaminated by radiation by the Chernobyl disaster.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The Constitution 
provides for freedom of peaceful assembly; however, the Government 
restricts this right in practice. Organizers must apply at least 15 
days in advance to local officials for permission to conduct a 
demonstration, rally, or meeting. The local government must respond 
with a decision not later than 5 days prior to the scheduled event.
    President Lukashenko issued decree number 5 in March 1997 in part 
to regulate what he termed the ``orgy'' of street protests taking 
place. The decree further limited citizens' ability to assemble 
peacefully by restricting the locations where rallies may take place 
and allowing local authorities to put strict limits on the number of 
participants. The decree also prohibited the display of unregistered 
flags and symbols, as well as placards bearing messages deemed 
threatening to the State or public order (see Section 2.a.). The 
decree, along with subsequent amendments adopted by the acting 
legislature, imposed severe penalties on those who violate the law, 
particularly the organizers of events. Although the decree allows for 
either monetary fines or detention for up to 15 days, courts frequently 
impose high fines knowing that those convicted cannot pay. When 
individuals fail to pay fines, authorities threaten to confiscate their 
property. The courts punished organizers of rallies with fines of 
several times the average monthly wage.
    In late January, an opposition coalition ``congress of democratic 
forces'' undertook to arrange for alternative presidential elections to 
be held from May 6 to May 16 in order to draw attention to the end of 
President Lukashenko's legal 5-year term in office (See section 3). In 
response, authorities initiated a widespread crackdown on opposition 
political activities throughout the country. Procurator General Oleg 
Bozhelko warned in a public statement on February 8 that participation 
in the opposition initiative could result in prosecution for attempting 
to ``seize power unconstitutionally and destabilizing society.''
    Public demonstrations occurred frequently in Minsk but were always 
under strict government control, including through open videotaping of 
the participants by the police and plainclothes security officers. 
Demonstrations also occurred in other parts of the country, but were 
less frequent in areas in the east close to the border with Russia. 
Following some sanctioned and unsanctioned demonstrations police and 
other security officials continued to round up, beat, detain, and try 
to coerce forced confessions from some demonstration participants (see 
Sections 1.c. and 1.d.).
    On April 2, 13th Supreme Soviet deputies Anatoliy Lebedko and 
Valery Shchukin were detained for leading an unsanctioned demonstration 
to protest comments by some government officials hinting at a possible 
redeployment of nuclear weapons into the country. Local authorities had 
notified the demonstration organizers at the last moment that their 
march could not be held. Lebedko was held in administrative detention 
for 3 days and fined approximately $150 (44 million rubles). Shchukin 
was given a 5-day sentence. Approximately 18 other persons also were 
detained after the march, including one who required hospitalization 
after a beating inflicted by security officers (see Section 1.c.).
    On April 16, a local court fined Valeri Kostko and Dimitri 
Bondarenko, members of the local human rights NGO's Belarusian Helsinki 
Committee and Charter '97, the equivalent of about $150 (44 million 
rubles) and $160 (47 million rubles), respectively, for leading a 
demonstration in Minsk on February 27. Although the demonstrators had 
received approval to march on a public sidewalk, they were fined after 
being forced to use a lane in the street because the sidewalk was 
blocked by snow.
    On April 21, a court in Grodno fined Association of Belarusian 
Poles chairman Tadeusz Gavin approximately $230 (67 million rubles) for 
leading an unsanctioned demonstration on April 17. Local authorities 
twice earlier had denied the Association of Belarusian Poles permission 
to hold a demonstration.
    On April 25, special forces militia troops in Grodno used force to 
break up an unsanctioned, but peaceful, opposition demonstration (see 
Section 1.c.).
    On April 27, a court in Grodno sentenced local United Civic Party 
and Entrepreneurs' Association chairman Valery Levonevsky to 13 days in 
prison for allegedly staging an unsanctioned demonstration near the 
offices of the local executive committee. Levonevsky, who pleaded not 
guilty to the charges, claimed that he had had an appointment within 
the building in question and that the arrest probably was made only as 
a precautionary measure because of a scheduled upcoming session in 
Grodno of the parliamentary assembly of the Belarusian-Russian Union.
    On May 1, 19 persons, including the chairman of the Belarusian 
Social Democratic Party, were detained in Minsk for attempting to 
participate in an officially sanctioned Labor Day celebration. Charges 
later were dropped against the participants (see Section 1.d.).
    In June 1998, following numerous complaints filed by citizens and 2 
days of public hearings, the Minsk city council passed a resolution 
that called for the Ministry of Interior to consider ways of preserving 
public order during demonstrations that did not violate civil rights 
and to increase the personal accountability of its officers. However, 
the effect of this resolution, if any, appears principally to have been 
that security forces usually try to detain individuals after 
demonstrations already have concluded and to do so out of sight of 
witnesses.
    On June 15, Minsk city officials denied permission to the 
Belarusian Social Democratic Party and Belarusian Popular Front to hold 
a demonstration against war, dictatorship, and fascism, citing the 
deaths of 52 people in a stampede in a metro station 3 weeks earlier to 
justify their decision.
    Over 70 persons were detained briefly following demonstrations in 
Minsk and other cities on July 21 and July 27. Government security 
officials beat some of the detainees (see Section l.c.). BSDP chairman 
Mikalay Statkevich was detained and sentenced to 10 days in prison for 
leading the sanctioned July 27 protest on an unauthorized march route. 
Government authorities also subsequently opened an investigation 
against Statkevich for ``disrupting public order,'' a charge that could 
carry up to 3 years in prison.
    Four participants (Grodno medical institute lecturer Ales 
Ostrovsky, BNF local leader Sergei Malchik, Pahonya editor Nikolai 
Markevich, and businessman Nikolai Voron) in an antigovernment 
demonstration in Grodno on July 21 were given fines of between about 
$100 (30 million rubles) and about $400 (120 million rubles), 
exceptionaly high in a country where the average monthly wage was then 
$40 (12 million rubles). Since they could not pay immediately, local 
authorities reportedly indicated that they would begin to confiscate 
their property. According to Ostrovsky, local authorities also told him 
that 20 percent of his monthly salary would be deducted until his fine 
was paid.
    On December 8, following a small unsanctioned protest in Minsk 
against the signing of a union treaty between Belarus and Russia, at 
least six demonstrators, including Belarusian Popular Front deputy 
chairman Vyuacheslav Sivchik and noted poet Slavomir Adamovich, were 
briefly detained. Dmitry Kasperovich, a 17-year-old member of the 
Popular Front's youth wing lost a tooth while being taken into custody. 
On December 15, Sivchik was fined about $300 (218 million rubles). 
Others were given lesser fines or official warnings.
    In connection with a new presidential decree entitled ``On Measures 
to Prevent Emergencies During Mass Events'' promulgated in early 
September, President Lukashenko told high level security officers in a 
September 16 meeting that opposition demonstrations in Minsk should be 
allowed only at locations outside of the city's center. It subsequently 
became more difficult to obtain permission to hold public protests. 
Opposition party organizers were denied permission to hold a March for 
Freedom demonstration, which had been planned for the downtown area on 
October 17. When protesters decided nevertheless to march toward the 
center of Minsk, special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs 
blocked their way and forcibly dispersed the crowd (see Section 1.d.). 
The acting head of the OSCE office in Minsk noted publicly on October 
18 that the refusal by Minsk city authorities to allow the March was 
``at the base of the conflict.''
    On October 22, Minsk city authorities also banned the annual Dzyzdy 
commemorative march held in Minsk. However, as the march route led away 
from the center of Minsk, government security officials did not prevent 
opposition supporters from going through with the march.
    The Constitution provides for freedom of association; however, the 
Government does not respect this right in practice. According to 
members of parties in opposition to the President, authorities 
frequently deny permission to opposition groups to meet in public 
buildings. Employees at state-run enterprises are discouraged from 
joining independent trade unions, and the Ministry of Justice long 
denied registration to the Congress of Independent Trade Unions (see 
Section 6.a.). The Government regularly harasses members and supporters 
of opposition parties, and confiscates their leaflets and publications. 
Government officials have warned alumni of foreign-sponsored education 
programs against continued affiliation with their program's sponsoring 
agency.
    On January 26, just before a coalition of opposition parties held a 
large ``congress of democratic forces,'' President Lukashenko issued 
decree number 2 requiring that all political parties, trade unions, and 
nongovernmental organizations reregister with authorities by July 1. 
Such public associations already had completed a lengthy reregistration 
process in 1995. The timing of the decree, which increased the scope of 
operations and number of members organizations would need to 
demonstrate to qualify for reregistration, apparently was intended as a 
method of political intimidation at a time of increased opposition 
activity. On July 1, regulations prohibiting private organizations from 
using private residences as their legal addresses were announced. In 
view of Government control or ownership of many office buildings, the 
regulations had the effect of complicating the reregistration process.
    The deadline for reregistration subsequently was extended until 
August 1 and again to October 1. Although most of the major political 
parties, unions, and NGO's that applied eventually were allowed to 
reregister, the process in practice often was complicated and drawn 
out. After the reregistration period had begun, government authorities 
announced that organizations would have to alter their charters to 
indicate recognition of the 1996 Constitution, and that the words 
``popular'' or ``national'' could not be used in their titles. On 
December 17, an amendment to the law on public associations officially 
went into effect that prohibits political and social organizations from 
using the words ``Belarus,'' ``Republic of Belarus,'' ``National,'' or 
``Popular'' in their titles. The Belarusian Association of Poles was 
denied reregistration twice before finally getting approval. The All-
Belarusian Club of Voters was given permission to reregister in mid-
November only after suing government authorities in court. As of year's 
end, the Association of Young Politicians, headed by well-known 
opposition leader Anatoliy Lebedko, the Belarusian Human Rights League, 
and the Belarusian Independent Association of Industrial Trade Unions 
had not been allowed to reregister. On December 17, President 
Lukashenko signed into law a bill on amendments to the Administrative 
Offenses Code that would make any work on behalf of unregistered NGO's 
punishable by fines. On December 27, the amendments entered into force. 
By the end of the year, the Ministry of Justice had reregistered 17 of 
27 political parties (18 had applied), and 38 of 42 national trade 
unions. Of approximately 2,500 NGO's, approximately 1,316 were 
reregistered.
    In April the Ministry of Justice blocked efforts by the Belarus 
Lambda League, the country's first and only lesbian and gay rights 
organization, to gain official registration as an NGO. The Ministry 
cited technical reasons, although Belarus Lambda League members claimed 
authorities were seeking to deny registration to a gay and lesbian 
organization and initiated an appeal to the Supreme Court.
    Members of local human rights NGO's also were harassed for 
involvement in or association with the opposition presidential election 
initiative. Gomel branch Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC) head 
Yevgeny Murashko was detained briefly in February following his 
participation in a human rights seminar with opposition Central 
Election Commission chairman Viktor Gonchar. In late June, Murashko 
also was given a 2-year suspended sentence ``for violating procedures 
of holding an assembly.''
    On February 16, local KGB officials in Vitebsk issued an official 
warning to opposition Central Election Commission Deputy Chairman Iosif 
Naumchik that his political activities could result in charges of 
conspiracy to seize state power under article 61-1 of the criminal 
code, punishable by 8 to 12 years in prison. Similar warnings were 
issued to opposition Central Election Commission members Lidiya 
Sazonovets and Sergei Obodovsky in February.
    On February 25, government security officials raided a meeting of 
the opposition Central Election Commission in Minsk and arrested its 15 
members. Commission chairman Viktor Gonchar subsequently was sentenced 
to 10 days in prison for organizing an ``unsanctioned rally'' (see 
Section 1.d.). He remained under investigation on charges of illegally 
claiming a public office until he disappeared in September (See section 
1.b.) Other commission members were sentenced to 5 days in prison, 
fined between about $40 (10 million rubles) and about $60 (15 million 
rubles), or given official warnings.
    On March 12, the Ministry of Justice issued a public statement 
calling on citizens ``not to give in to provocations on the part of 
irresponsible politicians.'' Further official warnings from the KGB 
later were given to a number of opposition activists including Central 
Election Commission member Nikolai Pokhabov and BNF member Tatyana 
Leschinskaya.
    A number of opposition election initiative workers complained that 
either they or their family members were threatened by intimations that 
they could be fired from their jobs because of their political 
activities. Government security officials frequently confiscated ballot 
forms to be used in the opposition election initiative.
    On June 23 the 13th Supreme Soviet sought to hold a meeting in a 
Minsk Restaurant, but the members were driven out by a special-purpose 
police detachment that claimed that a bomb had been planted in the 
restaurant. The chairman, Seymon Sharetsky, told a reporter that the 
bomb story had been planned much earlier. The session continued on the 
street near the restaurant and adopted an appeal to Lukashenko for 
political dialog.
    On July 22, following a meeting the previous day of the 13th 
Supreme Soviet (Supsov) in Minsk held to mark the end of Lukashenko's 
legal 5-year term in office, Supsov chairman Semyon Sharetsky sought 
temporary refuge in Lithuania due to his fear that he might be 
arrested. As of year's end, Sharetsky remained in Lithuania.
    The Government continued to attempt to limit severely the 
activities of NGO's (see Section 4).
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution provides for freedom of 
religion; however, the Government restricts this right in practice. The 
Government enforces a 1995 Cabinet of Ministers decree that controls 
religious workers, in an attempt to protect orthodoxy and prevent the 
growth of evangelical religions. Foreigners generally are prohibited 
from preaching or heading churches, at least with respect to what the 
Government views as ``nontraditional'' religions, which include 
Protestant faiths. A 1997 directive by the Council of Ministers 
prohibits teaching religion at youth camps. Further restrictive 
regulations governing the activities of foreign religious workers and 
clergy were passed by the Council of Ministers in February, although it 
remains unclear at year's end to what extent they were being enforced.
    The Government's State Committee on Religious and National Affairs 
(SCRNA), which was established in January 1997, appears to categorize 
religions and denominations. Some are viewed as ``traditional,'' 
including Russian Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam (as 
practiced by a small community of ethnic Tatars with roots in the 
country dating back to the 11th century); some are viewed as 
``nontraditional,'' including some Protestant and other faiths; and 
some are viewed as ``sects,'' including Eastern religions and other 
faiths. The authorities deny permission to register legally at the 
national level to some faiths considered to be nontraditional, and to 
all considered to be sects. Without legal registration, it is extremely 
difficult to rent or purchase property in order to hold religious 
services.
    While all registered religious organizations enjoy tax-exempt 
status, any government subsidies appear limited principally to the 
Orthodox Church. Citizens are not prohibited from proselytizing, but 
foreign missionaries may not engage in religious activities outside the 
institutions that invited them. Only religious organizations already 
registered in the country may invite foreign clergy. Foreign religious 
workers who do not register with the authorities, or who fail to get 
approval for religious activities--often a difficult bureaucratic 
process--have been expelled from the country.
    The Government and the President encourage a greater role for the 
Orthodox Church. However, the effort has not slowed the growth of Roman 
Catholic and Protestant churches. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church has 
experienced difficulty getting permission from authorities to bring in 
a sufficient number of outside religious workers to make up for a 
shortage of native clergy. According to an independent Russian press 
report, President Lukashenko told Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch 
Aleksey II, during a visit by the Patriarch to Minsk in September 1998, 
that Christian values should become ``the state ideology of Belarus.''
    During a press conference held in Minsk in late 1998, Vyacheslav 
Savitskiy, an official of the State Committee on Religious and Ethnic 
Affairs, emphasized the existence of ``destructive sects'' in the 
country. According to Savitskiy, the Government had denied registration 
requests of 11 such "sects." For example, the authorities consistently 
have denied the repeated registration attempts of the Belarus Orthodox 
Autocephalous Church. On November 7, Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox 
Church priest Yan Spasyuk announced a hunger strike to protest the 
continued unwillingness of local authorities in Grodno to register his 
parish, as well as a recent police raid on his house while he was 
conducting a prayer service. On November 28, at the urging of his 
family and parishioners, Spasyuk called off the hunger strike.
    During a religious conference held in Minsk on April 22, Belarusian 
Orthodox Church Patriarchal Exarch Filaret stated that the Orthodox 
Church does not seek the role of interconfessional leader or to become 
a state-run church. However, he stressed, the Orthodox Church would 
cooperate only with religious faiths that have ``historical roots'' in 
the country. Filaret also remarked that he was against the ``invasion 
of those foreign religions that corrupt souls.''
    The President granted the Orthodox Church special financial 
advantages, which other denominations do not enjoy, and has declared 
the preservation and development of Orthodox Christianity a ``moral 
necessity.'' Bishops must receive permission from the State Committee 
on Religious Affairs before transferring a foreign priest to another 
parish.
    According to the Anti-Defamation League and the World Jewish 
Congress, in March 1998 material from The Protocols of the Elders of 
Zion was included in a government-controlled religious broadcast. In 
spite of protests from the Jewish community, the program was 
rebroadcast in May and again in July. In a television interview given 
in Moscow in December 1998, President Lukashenko remarked that ``the 
main anti-Semites in Russia are representatives of the Jewish 
population'' (see Section 5.). However, government authorities in 
general appear to try to maintain good relations with leaders of the 
Jewish community. Following an arson attack on April 11, 1999 at the 
main synagogue in Minsk (see Section 5), police reportedly responded 
quickly. On April 16, the SCRNA agreed to a four-point plan with the 
head of the Union of Jewish Religious Organizations of Belarus to 
combat anti-Semitism. It remains unclear to what extent SCRNA may 
implement this plan.
    Restitution of religious property remained limited during the year. 
A key obstacle is the lack of a legal basis for restitution of property 
that was seized during the Soviet era and the Nazi occupation. The few 
returns of property to religious communities have been on an individual 
and inconsistent basis, and local government authorities in general are 
reluctant to cooperate on the issue without some form of compensation 
to replace properties that sometimes have become important public 
facilities. Over the past several years, the Jewish community has 
lobbied the Government successfully to return three synagogues in Minsk 
and several buildings outside the capital. In August 1998, following 
extensive restoration, the Catholic community reconsecrated a church in 
Pruzhany that had been shut down by Soviet authorities following World 
War II. The consecration ceremony was lead by the church's former 
priest who had spent 10 years in Siberia during the Soviet period.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--According to the Constitution, citizens 
are free to travel within the country and to live and work where they 
wish; however, the Government restricts these rights in practice. All 
adults are issued internal passports, which serve as primary identity 
documents and are required for travel, permanent housing, and hotel 
registration.
    On June 1, the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional an 
article of the Administrative Code barring enterprises, establishments, 
and organizations from employing persons without a ``propiska'' (pass), 
or the compulsory registration of their residence address. Under 
Article 182 of the Administrative Code, employers faced fines for 
giving jobs to persons who had no stamp in their passport indicating 
that their residence and their new place of employment were located in 
the same city or district. However, it remains unclear to what extent 
this court decision actually has affected local security officials. In 
practice the right to choose one's residence appears to remain 
restricted. On November 29, the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced 
a three-stage program to replace the ``propiska'' system in the period 
2000-05; however, there were no reports of any action to implement the 
program at year's end.
    Government regulations on entry and exit require citizens who wish 
to travel abroad to receive first a ``global'' exit visa in their 
passport, valid for between 1 and 5 years. Once the traveler has these 
documents, the law does not restrict travel.
    Following the dissolution of the Supreme Soviet in 1996, the 
Government took measures aimed at limiting the travel of opposition 
politicians who refused to submit to the legislature created by the 
November 1996 referendum. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in 
December 1996 that those Parliamentarians who did not join the new 
legislature could no longer travel on their diplomatic passports, 
despite the fact that these individuals had been assured that they 
would retain their status as deputies until their terms of office 
expired. Although their diplomatic passports were not confiscated, the 
border guards reportedly had a blacklist of opposition members who were 
to be denied exit from the country if they used a diplomatic passport. 
Subsequent to the January 1997 refusal by border guards to allow former 
Supreme Soviet Chairman Stanislav Shushkevich and parliamentary deputy 
Anatoliy Lebedko to travel abroad on their diplomatic passports, a 
number of members of the former Supreme Soviet have either acquired 
regular passports and have been allowed to travel abroad, or have 
departed from Russia using their Belarusian diplomatic passports.
    Government authorities canceled the ``global'' exit visas in the 
regular passports of 13th Supreme Soviet deputies Pavel Znavets and 
Viktor Gonchar in July and August respectively, based on ongoing 
investigations related to their political activities (see Sections 1.d. 
and 2.b.). Citing pending charges against him related to his 
participation in antigovernment demonstrations in Minsk in July and 
October (see Section 1.d.), and despite an invitation from the OSCE, 
government authorities denied permission to Belarusian Social 
Democratic Party leader Mikalay Statkevich to travel with an opposition 
delegation to the OSCE summit held in Istanbul in November.
    According to official data, the State did not deny any citizen 
permission to emigrate. However, legislation restricting emigration by 
those with access to ``state secrets'' remained in effect, and any 
citizen involved in a criminal investigation also was ineligible to 
emigrate. Prospective emigrants who have been refused the right to 
emigrate may appeal to the courts.
    The Constitution gives aliens and stateless persons the same rights 
as citizens, except in cases established by law, international 
agreement, or the Constitution. The Constitution also allows the State 
to grant refugee status to persons who were being persecuted in other 
states for their political and religious convictions, or because of 
nationality. The Government does not have a law on first asylum, nor 
has it signed readmission agreements with any of its neighboring 
states.
    The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for 
Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting 
refugees. In May 1997, the Government implemented for the first time 
the 1995 Law on Refugees, granting refugee status to a group of 
Afghans. As of October, the Government had granted official refugee 
status to 248 persons (including 185 from Afghanistan, 31 from Georgia, 
18 from Ethiopia, and 11 from Tajikistan) many of whom have lived in 
the country prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since its 
formation in early 1997 from the State Migration Service, the Committee 
on Migration within the Ministry of Labor has turned down 17 
applications for refugee status.
    On July 17, the chairman of the Migration Committee announced that 
there were between 100,000 and 150,000 illegal migrants in the country. 
As of early in the year, 2,700 potential asylum seekers had registered 
with the UNHCR in Belarus. Some refugees continue to report difficulty 
registering with local authorities, and continued delay in establishing 
a comprehensive asylum policy and refugee policy has made the lives of 
these individuals difficult. The UNHCR had no reports of any case of 
bona fide refugees being forced to return countries in which they 
feared persecution.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to 
        Change Their Government
    The Government severely limits the right of citizens to change 
their government. In November 1996, the executive branch conducted a 
controversial constitutional referendum that was neither free nor fair, 
according to credible international observers, including 
representatives of the European Union and the OSCE. Many Members of 
Parliament and of the Constitutional Court actively opposed President 
Lukashenko's proposals for both substantive and procedural reasons. The 
justices asserted that the referendum gave Lukashenko control over the 
legislative and judicial branches of government and extended his term 
in office. They also criticized it on procedural grounds as an 
unconstitutional means to eliminate the Constitution's checks and 
balances and grant the President virtually unlimited powers.
    In the period leading up to the referendum, opponents of President 
Lukashenko's proposals were denied access to the media, election 
officials failed to record the names of early voters, and no texts of 
the proposed Constitution were made available to voters until several 
days after citizens began voting. As a result of these irregularities, 
the head of the Central Election Commission (CEC) announced prior to 
the event that he would not be able to certify the results of the 
referendum. President Lukashenko promptly fired him, although the 
Constitution in force at the time gave the Parliament the exclusive 
authority to appoint and dismiss the CEC Chairman. Members of the 
security forces forcibly removed the head of the CEC from his office. 
Shortly thereafter, Prime Minister Mikhail Chigir resigned in protest 
of President Lukashenko's refusal to cancel the widely criticized 
referendum.
    Most members of the international community chose not to send 
election monitors to observe the referendum because of the illegitimacy 
of the entire process. Human rights organizations, including the 
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the Committee to Protect 
Journalists, and Human Rights Watch, protested the conduct of the 
referendum.
    The Constitutional Court formally ruled that the issues posed in 
President Lukashenko's referendum could not be decided legally through 
a referendum, and that its results should be purely advisory, 
consistent with the Constitution. However, after winning the 
referendum--according to the Government's own official count--President 
Lukashenko began to implement it immediately. The new Constitution 
established a bicameral legislature. Its 110-member lower house was 
formed out of the membership of the existing Supreme Soviet; deputies 
volunteered or were lured by promises of free housing and other 
benefits to serve in the body. The 64-member upper house was created by 
a combination of presidential appointments and elections by the 6 
regional or oblast councils and the Minsk City Council. The transition 
left 86 electoral districts unrepresented because the new Constitution 
reduced the number of representatives, and also because a full Supreme 
Soviet had never been seated, largely due to the executive branch's 
intervention in the 1995 elections.
    Despite consultative assistance provided by the OSCE's AMG, 
President Lukashenko's National Assembly passed in December 1998 
seriously flawed legislation on local elections, which were held on 
April 4 and 18. A late modification to Article 33 of the law, inserted 
at the insistence of the President, effectively bars many opposition 
candidates from running in local elections by prohibiting the 
participation of individuals who have been fined administratively by 
government authorities. The OSCE issued an official statement that the 
provisions of the law did not provide for a free and fair election 
process. Consequently, the OSCE did not organize an election 
observation program.
    On August 31, amendments to the referendum law came into force, 
which the OSCE declared were not in accordance with international 
standards. The amended law provides that referendums may be initiated 
by the President, the President's National Assembly, or 450,000 
signatures--including a minimum of 30,000 in the city of Minsk and in 
each of the country's 6 oblasts. The law makes 10 percent of all 
signatures subject to verification, and all signatures may be 
invalidated if the commission finds just 1 percent (4500 signatures) to 
be faulty. It also gave the President the prerogative to decide on the 
validity of referendum results.
    In late January, an opposition coalition ``congress of democratic 
forces'' undertook to arrange for alternative presidential elections to 
be held from May 6 to May 16 in order to draw attention to the end of 
President Lukashenko's legal 5-year term in office in July. In 
response, authorities initiated a widespread crackdown on opposition 
political activities throughout the country. Procurator General Oleg 
Bozhelko warned in a public statement on February 8 that participation 
in the opposition initiative could result in prosecution for attempting 
to ``seize power unconstitutionally and destabilizing society.''
    A number of opposition election initiative workers complained that 
either they or their family members were threatened by intimations that 
they could be fired from their jobs because of their political 
activities. Government security officials frequently confiscated ballot 
forms to be used in the opposition election initiative (see Section 
2.a.).
    There are no legal restrictions on women's participation in 
politics and government; however, with the exception of the judiciary, 
social barriers to women in politics are strong, and men hold virtually 
all leadership positions. In the acting legislature, women hold 19 of 
110 seats in the lower house and 5 of 64 in the upper house. The Deputy 
Chair of the upper house is a woman. The Minister of Social Security is 
the only female member of the Council of Ministers. The head of the 
Government's Central Election Commission also is a woman.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    There are several domestic human rights groups active in the 
country; however, members of domestic human rights organizations 
reported that the Government hindered their attempts to investigate 
alleged human rights violations. The Government monitored NGO 
correspondence and telephone conversations. The Government also 
attempted to limit severely the activities of NGO's through a time 
consuming reregistration process, denial of registration, questionable 
tax audits, and other means (see Section 2.b.). The Ministry of Justice 
tried to restrict the Belarusian Helsinki Committee to providing 
support only to members of its own association and warned initially 
that it might otherwise not be allowed to reregister. Human rights 
monitors of the BHC also briefly were detained and interrogated by 
government security services during the year (see Section 2.b.).
    The Ministry of Justice issued official warnings to the BHC during 
March after materials related to an ongoing opposition presidential 
election initiative were found in one of its regional offices. However, 
following an appeal by BHC, the Supreme Economic Court annulled one of 
the warnings on December 8. On November 25, the administrative 
department of the Presidential Administration, which controls either 
directly or indirectly a significant amount of commercial real estate 
in Minsk, informed the BHC that it would have to vacate its offices. 
However, at year's end, it appeared that the BHC would be allowed to 
remain at its current premises.
    On October 4, uniformed and plainclothes security officers, 
including a Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, broke into the Minsk 
office of the human rights NGO Spring '96. The officers did not present 
a warrant while conducting a comprehensive search of the premises. 
Computer equipment, which included a comprehensive database of human 
rights violations, was confiscated. Although the equipment later was 
returned, when Spring '96 chairman Ales Bialatsky was summoned to a 
police station to pick it up on November 18 he was arrested for his 
participation in an antigovernment demonstration in Minsk in mid-
October. A judge later dismissed the charges against Bialatsky.
    The country's poor human rights record continued to draw the 
attention of many international human rights organizations. In general 
the Government has been willing to discuss human rights with 
international NGO's whose members have been allowed to visit the 
country. At a press conference held in Minsk on July 15, the chairman 
of Human Rights Watch criticized the Government for its ``regular 
attacks on democracy.''
    In February 1998, after protracted negotiations, the Government 
finally approved the opening in Minsk of the OSCE's Advisory and 
Monitoring Group office. Although government authorities often have 
disregarded OSCE intervention on human rights cases and its advice on 
draft legislation, the OSCE's presence in Minsk provides a potentially 
important forum for dialog on these issues. In September 1999, through 
OSCE-brokered meetings initiated by OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's 
Belarus ad hoc committee chairman Adrian Severin, government and 
opposition representatives began a dialog to try resolve the country's 
ongoing constitutional and political crisis. However, at year's end, 
the government's cooperation in this process had come to a standstill.
    On August 20, a draft resolution critical of the country's human 
rights practices was removed from a vote at the U.N. subcommission on 
Human Rights Encouragement and Protection after the Government agreed 
to a number of measures on the adoption of human rights-related 
reforms. The Government took no action on implementing these reforms by 
year's end.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language, or Social Status
    The Constitution states that all citizens are equal before the law 
and have the right, without any discrimination, to equal protection of 
their rights and legitimate interests. However, the Constitution does 
not prohibit specifically discrimination based on factors such as race, 
sex, or religion. The Law on Citizenship, passed by the Parliament, 
grants citizenship to any person living permanently on the territory of 
the country as of October 19, 1991. Those who arrived in the country 
after that date and wish to become citizens are required to submit an 
application for citizenship, take an oath to support the Constitution, 
have a legal source of income, and have lived in the country for 7 
years.
    Women.--Although statistics are not available, domestic violence 
including spousal abuse against women is a significant problem, 
according to women's groups. There are laws that prohibit spousal 
abuse. Knowledgeable sources indicate that police generally are not 
hesitant to enforce the laws against domestic violence, and that the 
courts are not reluctant to impose sentences. The main problem, 
according to women's groups, is a general reluctance among women to 
report incidents of domestic violence. Violence against women was not 
the subject of extensive media coverage, marches, or demonstrations 
during the year.
    Although government authorities and local human rights observers 
report that prostitution does not yet appear to be a significant 
problem within the country, there is much anecdotal evidence that it 
may be growing. Local street prostitution appears to be growing as the 
economy deteriorates, and prostitution rings operate in state-owned 
hotels. Young women seeking to work or travel abroad also are 
vulnerable to sexual exploitation. The Ministry of Internal Affairs 
claims that very few women are deported back to Belarus for engaging in 
prostitution. However, it acknowledges that Russian criminal 
organizations may try actively to recruit and lure Belarusian women 
into serving as prostitutes in Western Europe and the Middle East. 
There is evidence of trafficking in women (see Section 6.f.).
    Sexual harassment is reportedly widespread, but there are not any 
specific laws to deal with the problem other than laws against physical 
assault.
    The law requires equal wages for equal work; however, such is not 
always the case in practice. Women have significantly fewer 
opportunities for advancement to the upper ranks of management. Women 
report that managers frequently take into consideration whether a woman 
has children when considering potential job opportunities. The state 
press reported in September that approximately 64 percent of those 
considered by the Government to be long-term unemployed are single 
mothers.
    The level of education of women is higher than that of men. Women 
make up approximately 58 percent of workers with a higher education and 
approximately 66 percent of workers with a specialized secondary 
education. In these sectors, between two-thirds and three-fourths of 
employees (mostly women) live beneath the official poverty level. Women 
legally are equal to men with regard to property ownership and 
inheritance. There are active women's groups, most of which focus on 
issues such as child welfare, environmental concerns (in the aftermath 
of Chernobyl), and the preservation of the family. A private university 
in Minsk established the country's first gender studies faculty during 
1997.
    Children.--The Government is committed to children's welfare and 
health, particularly as related to consequences of the nuclear accident 
at Chernobyl, and, with the help of foreign donors, tries to give them 
special attention. By law everyone is entitled to health care, 
including children. There does not appear to be any difference in the 
treatment of girls and boys. Children begin school at the age of 6 and 
are required to complete 9 years, although the Government makes 11 
years of education available at no cost and began in 1998 to develop a 
12-year education program. Higher education also is available at no 
cost on a competitive basis. Families with children receive token 
government benefits. According to one World Bank study, the majority of 
those living in poverty are families with multiple children or single 
mothers.
    The Government continued to discourage the promotion of, or the 
teaching of students in, the Belarusian language by limiting the 
available of early childhood education in Belarusian. According to one 
study by the Francisak Skaryna Belarusian language society, the share 
of first graders studying in Belarusian-language classes shrank from 
75.3 percent in 1993-94, prior to the Lukashenko presidency, to 28.7 
percent in 1997-98. In the capital city of Minsk, the share reportedly 
decreased from 58.6 to 4.8 percent. Only 11.2 percent of secondary 
students in Minsk currently are taught in Belarusian. Government 
authorities claim that the only schools that have been closed which 
taught in the Belarusian language are those that experienced 
diminishing enrollment.
    There does not appear to be a societal pattern of abuse of 
children.
    People with Disabilities.--A 1992 law mandated accessibility to 
transport, residences, businesses, and offices for the disabled; 
however, facilities, including transport and office buildings, often 
are not accessible to the disabled. The country's continued difficult 
financial condition makes it especially difficult for local governments 
to budget sufficient funds to implement the 1992 law. The central 
Government continues to provide some minimal subsidies to the disabled. 
However, continued high inflation and sharp decline in the value of the 
Belarusian ruble greatly reduced the real worth of those limited 
subsidies.
    Religious Minorities.--Societal anti-Semitism exists but usually is 
not manifested openly. Senior government officials, including the 
President and the state media, sometimes have used coded anti-Semitic 
language in their attacks on perceived opponents. In a television 
interview given in Moscow in December 1998, in which he sought to 
criticize Russian financier and Executive Secretary of the Commonwealth 
of Independent States Boris Berezovskiy, President Lukashenko stated 
that Berezovskiy's activities, ``might result in Jewish pogroms in 
Russia.'' Lukashenko also remarked that ``the main anti-Semites in 
Russia are representatives of the Jewish population.''
    In April there was an arson attempt on a synagogue in Minsk, during 
which the door to the structure sustained minor damage, and the 
graffiti, ``Kill Yids, save Russia,'' was spraypainted on a wall. 
However, police reportedly responded quickly. In reaction to the 
incident, the State Committee on Religious and National Affairs agreed 
with the head of the Union of Jewish Religious Organizations to a four-
point plan to combat anti-Semitism. It remained unclear at year's end 
to what extent the Government would implement this plan.
    According to the Anti-Defamation League and the World Jewish 
Congress, in March 1998 government-controlled radio broadcast material 
from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on a religious program. In 
spite of protests from the Jewish community, the program was 
rebroadcast in May and again in July. Following a written complaint 
from the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the chairman of the State 
Committee on the Press noted publicly on May 4 that local newspapers 
that publish anti-Semitic material would be given official warnings. In 
June an official warning was given to Lichnost, one such local 
newspaper. Under the December 1997 amendments to the Law on Press and 
Other Media, newspapers can be banned if two warnings are issued (see 
Section 2.a.). According to the Anti-Defamation League and World Jewish 
Congress, a number of newspapers regularly print anti-Semitic material.
    On October 15, the Belarusian Judaic Religious Association (JRA) 
spoke out publicly against an anti-Semitic article that appeared in the 
newspaper Slavyanski Nabat, written by National Assembly deputies 
Valery Drako and Sergei Kostyan. Drako and Kostyan asserted in their 
article that many Jews held high rank in the Nazi Wehrmacht and equated 
Zionism with fascism.
    A number of Jewish cemeteries and sites have been desecrated in 
recent years. In February a cemetery was desecrated in Rechitsa, which 
had also been vandalized in 1997. Cemeteries were desecrated in Borisov 
and Orsha in April 1998, and in Gomel and Berezino in July 1998. In 
August 1998, a memorial to Holocaust victims in Brest was desecrated. A 
15-year-old skinhead was caught in connection with the Brest 
desecration. Local officials reportedly have failed to come up with any 
leads in the other cases. In September the head of a local Jewish 
organization in Brest issued a statement complaining about continued 
incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti appearing in the city, and what he 
claimed to be the apparent indifference of local authorities. As of 
year's end, there were no reports of action by the authorities.
    Many members of the Jewish community remain concerned that the 
Lukashenko Government's plans to promote greater unity with Russia may 
be accompanied by political appeals to groups in Russia that tolerate 
or promote anti-Semitism. Lukashenko's calls for ``Slavic solidarity'' 
are well received and supported by anti-Semitic, neo-Fascist 
organizations in Russia. For example, the organization Russian National 
Unity has an active branch in Belarus, and its literature is 
distributed in public places in Minsk. On February 5, members of this 
organization severely beat Charter '97 human rights activist Andrei 
Sannikov when he objected to their distribution of leaflets on a public 
square in downtown Minsk. A criminal case against Sannikov's assailants 
was later suspended on the grounds of lack of evidence.
    The country's small Muslim community, with roots in the country 
dating to the Middle Ages, does not report significant societal 
prejudice. However, on August 9, the Slonim mosque--the first mosque to 
open in the country during the last 60 years--was vandalized just prior 
to the holding of a Tatar youth convention in the city.
Section 6. Worker rights
    a. The Right of Association.--The Constitution upholds the right of 
workers, except state security and military personnel, to form and join 
independent unions on a voluntary basis and to carry out actions in 
defense of worker rights, including the right to strike; however, these 
rights are not respected in practice. The independent trade union 
movement is still in its infancy. The Belarusian Free Trade Union 
(BFTU) was established in 1991 and registered in 1992. Following the 
1995 Minsk metro workers strike, the President issued a decree 
suspending its activities. In 1996 the BFTU leaders formed a new 
umbrella organization, the Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BCDTU), 
which encompasses four leading independent unions and is reported to 
have approximately 15,000 members.
    On December 9, a branch of the independent Free Union of Metal 
Workers (FUMW) was evicted from its offices at the Minsk Automobile 
Factory. On December 16, six independent union representatives, 
including FUMW activist Dimitry Plis, were arrested at the Minsk 
Automobile Factory for picketing its entrance. Some later were found 
guilty of holding an unsanctioned rally and fined.
    The Government has taken measures to suppress independent trade 
unions. For example, members of independent trade unions have been 
arrested for distributing union literature, had material confiscated at 
the borders, have been denied access to work sites, have been subjected 
to excessive fines, and have been pressured by their managers and state 
security services to resign from their jobs because of trade union 
activities. Despite the repeal by the Government of its illegal ban on 
the BFTU, as well as the Ministry of Justices' reregistration of the 
BFTU and BCDTU (following a Presidential decree issued in January 
requiring that all public organizations, including unions, reregister), 
government authorities have continued to threaten and harass 
independent union members.
    For example, according to the BFTU, Georgy Mukhin was fired by the 
Minsk Tractor Works in early March as a result of his activism on 
behalf of the FTUMW. Sergei Antonchik, a union organizer affiliated 
with the BFTU who heads the National Strike Committee, was detained 
briefly on March 6 for organizing an unsanctioned demonstration in the 
city of Orsha. He subsequently was fined by a local court. Antonchik's 
Minsk office also was raided by government security officials who 
confiscated antigovernment bulletins.
    In October the Ministry of Justice turned down the application of 
the Belarusian Independent Association of Industrial Trade Unions 
(BIAITU), which represents approximately 340,000 workers and is 
composed of 3 large official unions that have been critical of the 
Government's economic policies, to reregister as a legal organization. 
The decision apparently was based on a finding that the BIAITU's 
charter was inconsistent with its status as an umbrella organization of 
different unions. In early November, Minsk city authorities refused a 
request submitted by BIAITU leaders for permission to hold a public 
demonstration to protest the Ministry of Justice's decision.
    The Government continues to discourage employees at state-run 
enterprises from joining independent trade unions. Lukashenko signed a 
new restrictive Presidential decree (number 29) to ``tighten labor 
discipline'' July 26. The decree, which has as one of its aims the 
placement of all workers on individual rather than collective 
contracts, was criticized heavily by both independent and official 
union leaders, who believe that it was designed principally to enable 
the presidential administration to increase its control over the labor 
sector.
    The Official Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FTUB), formerly 
the Belarusian branch of the Soviet Union's All-Union Central Council 
of Trade Unions, consists of approximately 4.4 million workers 
(including retirees) and is by far the largest trade union 
organization. According to official union federation figures, 92 
percent of the workforce is unionized. Although wary in the past of 
challenging the regime seriously, some FTUB leaders are becoming 
increasingly vocal in their criticism of the polices of the Lukashenko 
regime. In retaliation, some FTUB officials claim they have been 
subjected to threats and harassment from the Government. In late 
January the BFTU and FTUB-affiliated automobile and agricultural 
equipment manufacturing union held a joint demonstration in Minsk to 
protest falling living standards.
    On September 30, the FTUB held a demonstration in Minsk, also 
supported by independent unions, to protest presidential decree number 
29. However, Minsk city officials allowed the protest rally to take 
place only in a location away from the city center. Prior to the 
demonstration, President Lukashenko ridiculed the leaders, accusing 
them of manipulating popular hardship for political advantage, and 
warning them that persons who did not adhere to the Government's 
restrictions in the demonstration would ``get it in full.''
    Although sometimes willing to try to cooperate with official union 
leaders to achieve mutual objectives, such as on September 30 and 
during a joint demonstration held in late January, independent labor 
union leaders remain skeptical that most FTUB representatives are 
prepared to promote effectively workers' rights. Independent labor 
leaders also maintain that the official trade unions' continued control 
over social welfare functions usually performed by the State (such as 
pension funds) is an obstacle to the growth of true, independent trade 
unions. On December 17, approximately 100 members of the free trade 
union picketed the Zenit factory in Mogilyov to protest the fact that 
state managers would allow only representatives of an official union to 
maintain an office at the plant.
    Tight control by the Government over public demonstrations (see 
Sections 1.d. and 2.b.) makes it difficult for unions to strike or hold 
public rallies to further their objectives. Although union members 
undertook work stoppages, usually in response to late payment of wages, 
precise data on the number of strikes that took place is unavailable.
    Unions may affiliate freely with international bodies.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--Legislation 
dating from the Soviet era provides for the right to organize and 
bargain collectively. However, according to a poll conducted by the 
Ministry of Labor's Labor Research Institute in January 1998, although 
most industrial workers believe that the terms of their employment were 
governed by collective bargaining agreements, only 17 percent of the 
workers polled thought that collective bargaining agreements were 
executed as stipulated. Some analysts believe that the new presidential 
decree on labor discipline (see Section 6.a.), which aims at placing 
all workers on individual rather than collective contracts, could 
significantly threaten the principle of collective bargaining. Since 
the economy is still largely in the hands of the State, unions usually 
seek political redress for their economic problems. Workers and 
independent unions have recourse to the court system.
    There are no export processing zones.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--The Constitution 
prohibits forced labor, except in cases when the work or service to be 
performed is fixed by a court's decision or in accordance with the Law 
on the State of Emergency or martial law. The Constitutional provision 
prohibiting forced or bonded labor applies to all citizens, although 
its application to children is not specified. With the possible 
exception of juvenile prisoners, however, forced and bonded labor by 
children is not known to occur.
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--The law establishes 16 as the minimum age for employment. 
With the written consent of one parent (or legal guardian), a 14-year-
old child may conclude a labor contract. The Prosecutor General's 
office reportedly enforces this law effectively. The constitutional 
provision prohibiting forced or bonded labor applies to all citizens, 
although its application to children is not specified (see Section 
6.c.).
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--During 1998 average monthly real 
wages declined significantly from about $88 to about $30 a month. The 
minimum wage does not provide a decent standard of living for a worker 
and family. Agriculture workers are paid approximately 39 percent less 
than the average monthly wages. The country's continuing economic 
problems make it difficult for the average worker to earn a decent 
living. At year's end, major wage arrearages remained, especially in 
the agricultural sector.
    The Constitution and Labor Code set a limit of 40 hours of work per 
week and provide for at least one 24-hour rest period per week. Because 
of the country's difficult economic situation, an increasing number of 
workers find themselves working considerably less than 40 hours per 
week. Factories reportedly often require workers to take unpaid 
furloughs due to shortages of raw materials and energy and lack of 
demand for factory output.
    The law establishes minimum conditions for workplace safety and 
worker health; however, these standards often are ignored. Workers at 
many heavy machinery plants do not wear even minimal safety gear, such 
as gloves, hard hats, or welding glasses. A State Labor Inspectorate 
exists, but does not have the authority to enforce compliance, and 
violations often are ignored. The high accident rate is due to lack of 
protective clothing, shoes, and equipment, nonobservance of temperature 
regulations, the use of outdated machinery, and inebriation on the job. 
Official data indicate that 130 workers died in industrial accidents 
during the first 6 months of 1999, half of which were due to drinking 
on the job. According to the Ministry of Labor, 294 persons died and 
1300 were injured in workplace accidents during 1998. There is no 
provision in the law that allows workers to remove themselves from 
dangerous work situations without risking loss of their jobs.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--There is no specific law against 
trafficking, although it is possible in theory that existing laws would 
be sufficient to prosecute traffickers. There were no reports of 
government efforts to prosecute traffickers.
    A 1999 OSCE report, while acknowledging that reliable data are 
impossible to obtain, describes Belarus as a source country for women 
being trafficked to Central and Western Europe for purposes of 
prostitution. Information from such scattered destinations as the 
Netherlands, Lithuania and Bosnia, refer to Belarus among the source 
countries for women being trafficked to or through their countries.
    There is much anecdotal evidence that young women are being 
trafficked by the Russian mafia, and end up in Cyprus, Greece, Israel, 
and Western Europe working as prostitutes. The Ministry of the Interior 
acknowledges that Russian criminal organizations may try actively to 
recruit and lure Belarusian women into serving as prostitutes in 
Western Europe and the Middle East.
                                 ______
                                 

                                BELGIUM

    Belgium is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch 
who plays a mainly symbolic role. The Council of Ministers (Cabinet), 
led by the Prime Minister, holds office as long as it retains the 
confidence of the lower house of the bicameral Parliament. 
Constitutional reforms enacted in 1993 transformed Belgium from a 
unitary into a federal state with several levels of government, 
including national, regional (Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels), and 
community (Flemish, Francophone, and German) levels. The judiciary is 
independent.
    The Government maintains effective control of all security forces. 
The Police Judiciaire and the Gendarmerie currently share 
responsibility for internal security with the municipal police, but the 
two organizations are to be merged at the federal level, and the 
Gendarmerie and municipal police are to be integrated at the local 
level under a reorganization plan that is to be implemented fully by 
April 1, 2001.
    The country is highly industrialized, with a vigorous private 
sector and limited government participation in industry. The primary 
exports are iron and steel. The economy provides a high standard of 
living for most citizens.
    The Government generally respected the human rights of its 
citizens, and the law and the judiciary provide effective means of 
dealing with individual instances of abuse. The Government is taking 
steps to combat violence against women and trafficking in women and 
children.
                        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.
    In February Parliament enacted legislation that further defines 
crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide and also imposes 
penalties for such crimes.
    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 officials employed them.
    In addition to the integration of the police forces, the 
reorganization plan calls for the creation of an independent oversight 
body for the federal police and also for the creation of a new 
anticorruption unit.
    Prison conditions vary. Newer prisons meet international standards. 
Older facilities meet or nearly meet minimum international standards 
despite their Spartan physical conditions and limited resources. In 
September the prison system, designed to hold 7,533 prisoners, held 
8,350 inmates. A continuing program is intended to improve overall 
conditions and expand capacity to 8,000 beds by 2000. Women and men are 
housed in separate prisons. Men constitute 95 percent of all detainees. 
A third of male prisoners are under the age of 25; 70 percent are under 
the age of 35.
    The Government permits prison visits by human rights monitors.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--The law prohibits 
arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government observes this 
prohibition. Arrested persons must be brought before a judge within 24 
hours. Pretrial confinement is subject to monthly review by a panel of 
judges, which may extend pretrial detention based on established 
criteria (e.g., whether, in the court's view, the arrested person would 
be likely to commit further crimes or attempt to flee if released). 
Bail exists in principle under the law but is granted rarely. The 
Government no longer separates convicted criminals and pretrial 
detainees. Pretrial detainees receive different benefits from convicted 
criminals, such as the right to more frequent family visits. 
Approximately 40 percent of the total prison population consists of 
pretrial detainees. Arrested persons are allowed prompt access to a 
lawyer of their choosing or, if they cannot afford one, to an attorney 
appointed by the state.
    The law prohibits exile, and the government does not employ it.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--The Constitution provides for an 
independent judiciary, and the Government respects this provision in 
practice. The judiciary provides citizens with a fair and efficient 
judicial process.
    The judicial system is organized according to specialization and 
territorial jurisdiction, with 5 territorial levels: Canton (225), 
district (27), provinces and Brussels (11), courts of appeal (5), and 
for the whole Kingdom--the Cour de Cassation. The latter is the highest 
appeals court.
    Military tribunals try military personnel for common law as well as 
military crimes. All military tribunals consist of four officers and a 
civilian judge. At the appellate level, the civilian judge presides. 
The accused has the right of appeal to a higher military court.
    Each judicial district has a Labor Court, which deals with 
litigation between employers and employees regarding wages, notice, 
competition clauses, and social security benefits.
    The judiciary enforces the law's provision for the right to a fair 
trial. Charges are clearly and formally stated, and there is a 
presumption of innocence. All defendants have the right to be present, 
to have counsel (at public expense if needed), to confront witnesses, 
to present evidence, and to appeal.
    The Government continued to implement judicial reforms in the wake 
of public dissatisfaction with the handling of the 1996 Dutroux 
pedophile investigation (see Section 6.f.). The reform legislation 
included the creation of a board of attorneys general, whose purpose is 
to oversee and streamline nationwide policy on criminal prosecutions. 
Changes also were made in the procedure governing the appointment and 
promotion of magistrates. The Government also created a High Council on 
Justice to supervise the appointment and promotion of magistrates. The 
Government plans for the Council to serve as a permanent monitoring 
board for the entire justice system and to be empowered to hear 
complaints against individual magistrates.
    Following its review of the judicial system, the Government 
implemented several reforms that granted stronger rights to victims of 
crime. These measures allow victims to have more access to information 
during an investigation, as well as the right to appeal if an 
investigation does not result in a decision to bring charges. As part 
of its program of judicial reform, the Government since 1997 opened 11 
``justice houses.'' These facilities combine a variety of legal 
services under one roof, including legal aid, mediation, and victims' 
assistance. The Government plans to open a justice house in the 
remaining 16 judicial districts by 2001.
    There were no reports of political prisoners.
    f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--The law prohibits such practices, government 
authorities respect these prohibitions, and violations are subject to 
effective legal sanction.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
    a. Freedom of Speech and Press.--The law provides for these 
freedoms, and the Government respects these rights in practice. An 
independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic 
political system combine to ensure freedom of speech and of the press.
    The Government operates several radio and television networks but 
does not control program content. Boards of directors that represent 
the main political, linguistic, and opinion groups supervise programs. 
A government representative sits on each board but has no veto power. 
Private radio and television stations operate with government licenses. 
Almost all homes have access by cable to television from other Western 
European countries and elsewhere abroad. Satellite services are also 
available.
    There are restrictions on the press regarding libel, slander, and 
the advocacy of racial or ethnic discrimination, hate, or violence. A 
law passed in February prevents political parties that espouse 
discrimination from receiving federal funds.
    Academic freedom is respected.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The law provides 
for freedom of assembly, and the Government respects this provision in 
practice. However, during the year two demonstrations were banned. In 
March the city of Brussels banned all protests and demonstrations 
concerning the NATO air strikes in Kosovo. City authorities cited law 
and order reasons for this decision. In April a local politician 
climbed the fence at Klein Brogel air base as part of an antinuclear 
demonstration and was cited for breaking and entering. Local 
authorities banned future antinuclear demonstrations at the base. In 
July a district judge ruled that the legal case against the politician 
did not fall under the jurisdiction of the district court. No further 
action was taken on the matter.
    The law provides for freedom of association, and the Government 
respects this provision in practice. Citizens are free to form 
organizations and establish ties to international bodies; however, the 
Antiracism Law (see Section 5) prohibits membership in organizations 
that practice discrimination overtly and repeatedly. In April a 
district judge in Ghent ruled that the ``Hells Angels'' are a private 
militia as defined by the law and ordered that the group be disbanded. 
The organization appealed the decision and related sanctions, and the 
appeal verdict was pending at year's end.
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution provides for freedom of 
religion, and the government respects this right in practice. The 
Government does not hinder the practice of any faith. The law accords 
``recognized'' status to Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, 
Anglicanism, Islam, and Greek and Russian Orthodoxy, and these 
religions receive subsidies from general government revenues. Taxpayers 
who object to contributing to religious subsidies have no recourse. By 
law each recognized religion has the right to provide teachers at 
government expense for religious instruction in schools, but not all 
avail themselves of this right. For recognized religions, the 
Government pays the salaries, retirement, and lodging expenses of 
ministers and also subsidizes the renovation of church buildings.
    The lack of independent recognized status generally does not 
prevent religious groups from freely practicing their religions.
    However, in September 110 national police officers raided Church of 
Scientology facilities and the homes and businesses of about 20 members 
of the Church. One member's home in France was raided simultaneously by 
the French authorities. At year's end, an investigation continued, and 
no arrests had been made.
    Although Islam was declared a recognized religion in 1974, Muslims 
have not had an elected body to act as their representative in dealings 
with the federal government. In December 1998, Muslims held nationwide 
elections for an assembly consisting of 51 persons representing 
numerous communities of the Muslim faith. Of those elected, four were 
women. The Muslim representative body recognized by the Government 
currently is composed of 16 members appointed by the elected assembly 
and the current Muslim executive council. A 17th member may be 
appointed in the future, although no individual has been named to fill 
this position.
    The Evangelical Association (a group of evangelical Christian 
organizations) continued to claim discrimination due to the 
Government's refusal to grant it recognized status separate from the 
Protestant religion. Despite the Government's refusal, it is 
negotiating with the group in an effort to ensure that the Evangelical 
Association enjoys the same benefits as recognized religions by 
mediating discussions to enable the evangelical association to obtain a 
seat in the leadership of the recognized Protestant church.
    In 1998 Parliament adopted recommendations from a 1997 commission's 
report on government policy toward sects, particularly sects deemed 
``harmful'' under the law. The report divided sects into two broadly 
defined categories: It characterized a ``sect'' as any religious-based 
organization, and a ``harmful sect'' as a group that may pose a threat 
to society or individuals. One of the primary recommendations was to 
create a ``Center for Information and Advice on Harmful Sectarian 
Organizations.'' The Center opened in October and is working with a 
limited staff of two persons. It is tasked with collecting publicly 
available information on a wide range of religious and philosophical 
groups and providing information and advice to the public regarding the 
legal rights of freedom of association, freedom of privacy, and freedom 
of religion. The Government has not yet published regulations for its 
operations. In 1998 the Government also created an interagency body 
designed to work in conjunction with the Center to coordinate 
government policy on sects, but this body had not been set up by year's 
end. Nor had the Government or Parliament yet taken any action to 
establish a special police unit on sects or to designate special 
magistrates to monitor cases involving sects, which were two other 
recommendations of the 1997 commission.
    The parliamentary report also recommended that the country's 
community governments sponsor information campaigns to educate the 
public--especially children--regarding the phenomenon of harmful sects. 
In March the Francophone Community government launched a prevention 
campaign called ``Gurus, Beware!'' The campaign was intended to fulfill 
the commission's recommendation to educate the country's youth on the 
dangers posed by harmful sects. Information for the campaign was 
disseminated through pamphlets, brochures, television, and motion 
picture advertisements. On one page, the brochure discussed 20 of the 
groups listed in the 1997 commission report and stated that the country 
harbors certain ``dangerous sects.'' In April 1999, one of the groups 
discussed in the brochure, the Anthroposophic Society (which is based 
in Antwerp), filed suit to halt its distribution. An Antwerp court 
issued an order enjoining the Francophone Community government from 
further distribution of the brochure until all defamatory language 
referring to this group was removed from the text. The Francophone 
Community agreed not to publish any additional brochures.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--The law provides for these rights, and 
the Government respects them in practice.
    The law include provisions for granting refugee or asylee status in 
accordance with the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of 
Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government cooperates with the 
office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other 
humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. The Government 
provides first asylum, and during the first 11 months of the year 
approximately 31,000 new applications for asylum were filed, compared 
with 21,947 for all of 1998. A total of 1,404 applicants, mostly from 
previous years, were granted permanent residence. Counting those from 
previous years, 33,730 applications remained pending. Of new asylum 
seekers during the year, 35 to 40 percent were displaced residents of 
Kosovo.
    In May the Government decided to extend special asylum status to 
about 15,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees who entered the country 
illegally in the past year. This regularization of status enabled these 
refugees to receive the same benefits, including the right to work and 
claim social security benefits, as 1,200 Kosovars already welcomed by 
the Government. In late 1999, the Government planned to abolish the 
special status held by Kosovars, but those still holding this special 
status are to be able to obtain extensions for up to 6 months. They may 
then apply for regular refugee status, which 2,300 members of this 
group already have done.
    Extensions of a special program initiated in 1992 for refugees from 
the former Yugoslavia were discontinued at the beginning of the year. 
The displaced persons admitted under that program were allowed either 
to adjust their status and become permanent residents or to apply for 
political asylum.
    Asylum seekers arriving by air with no papers are detained for up 
to 5 months while awaiting consideration of their cases. The children 
do not attend school. If no asylum decision has been reached by the end 
of the 5-month period, then the asylum seeker is released or 
voluntarily repatriated. At the discretion of the Minister of Interior, 
the Cabinet may exempt certain cities, which have already accepted 
large refugee populations, from giving legal residence to new refugees 
or asylees.
    In 1998 a Senate commission recommended reforms to immigration law 
designed to create a more ``just and humane'' immigration policy. The 
commission criticized the conditions in detention centers and advocated 
the upgrading and renovation of certain centers. In addition to 
improving the physical infrastructure of the centers, the commission 
recommended that detainees receive improved access to legal, medical, 
and social services.
    The commission also proposed the creation of a national body to 
oversee the quality of conditions in detention centers.
    In September 1998, a Nigerian woman died following a struggle with 
police who were trying forcibly to repatriate her. In the aftermath of 
this incident the Government fully adopted new policies on asylum in 
1999, which mirrored recommendations made earlier that year by the 
Senate commission with regard to matters such as limiting the period of 
detention, adding staff and funding, reviewing cases and documentation, 
and enlarging reception centers. The Government also created a task 
force to monitor asylum policy in November. In addition, based on the 
recommendations, the Gendarmerie unit that deals with forced 
repatriations was enlarged and better trained.
    After the change in government in July, immigration and asylum 
measures became a focus of the new Government. The Minister of Interior 
created working groups to develop a plan for the Government and hired a 
significant number of additional officials in the Aliens Office to 
handle processing and interviewing.
    As a first step in the comprehensive changes in asylum and 
immigration policies, in October the Government initiated a mass 
repatriation of 74 Slovak Roma who were denied asylum. Some reports 
indicated that not all deportees departed voluntarily but were tricked 
into appearing for the repatriation. In December the Government used 
military aircraft to carry out a second repatriation. This time 15 
Nigerians who were living illegally in Belgium were sent home.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to 
        Change Their Government
    The law provides citizens with the right to change their government 
peacefully. Citizens ages 18 and older exercise this right in practice 
through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of 
universal and compulsory (under penalty of fine) suffrage. Direct 
popular elections for parliamentary seats (excluding some Senators 
elected by community councils and others elected by Senate members) are 
held at least every 4 years. Opposition parties operate freely.
    In 1998 the European Court of Justice censured Belgium for its 
failure to comply with a European Council directive requiring members 
states to accord to all citizens of European Union (EU) countries 
resident in another EU country the right to vote in municipal 
elections. In 1998 Parliament amended the Constitution to extend that 
right to EU citizens and passed implementing legislation in January.
    The Federal Government is responsible for such matters of state as 
security, justice, social security, and fiscal and monetary policy. The 
regional governments are charged with matters that directly affect the 
geographical regions and the material well-being of their residents, 
such as commerce and trade, public works, and environmental policy. The 
linguistic community councils handle matters more directly affecting 
the mental and cultural well-being of the individual, such as education 
and the administration of certain social welfare programs.
    Women are underrepresented in government but hold some senior 
positions. Of 18 federal ministers, 3 are women. In the Federal 
Parliament, 34 of 150 house members and 20 of 71 Senators are women. 
These numbers show a slight increase in the role of women in the 
Federal Government, partially due to a 1998 law that requires that 33 
percent of the candidates on the ballot in all elections be women. 
Following the June 13 general elections, for the first time two women 
became Vice Premiers in the Cabinet.
    The existence of communities speaking Dutch, French, and German 
engenders significant complexities for the state. Most major 
institutions, including political parties, are divided along linguistic 
lines. National decisions often take into account the specific needs of 
each regional and linguistic group.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    Numerous human rights groups operate without government 
restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human 
rights cases. Government officials are very cooperative and responsive 
to their views.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language, or Social Status
    The law prohibits discrimination based on these factors, and the 
Government enforces it. With Dutch, French, and German as official 
languages, the counry has a complex linguistic regime, including 
language requirements for various elective and appointive positions. In 
February the Senate passed a new law intended to prevent official 
financing of any racist or xenophobic party or any party that does not 
respect human rights.
    Women.--A 1997 parliamentary report described domestic violence 
against women as still ``covered by a culture of silence.'' In one 
academic study, an eminent sociologist found that slightly less than 1 
percent of the women in a particular town had reported incidents of 
domestic violence to the authorities. However, the number of unreported 
incidents is higher, and other studies suggest that approximately 6 
percent of women in several other towns were abused by their domestic 
partners.
    A 1998 law defines and criminalizes domestic violence. The 
legislation aims to protect married and unmarried partners. Women's 
groups believe that it is an important step in recognizing domestic 
violence as constituting a offense distinct from other forms of 
aggression. The legislation allows social organizations to represent 
victims of domestic violence in court provided that they have the 
victim's consent. In early 1999 a law was passed allowing police entry 
into a home without the consent of the head of household when 
investigating a domestic violence complaint. According to its 
proponents, the police do not use the law enough. The legislation also 
requires the Government to maintain a database of statistics on the 
subject, but by year's end it had not made any progress on implementing 
any provisions of the law and did not yet have any accurate statistics 
on domestic violence.
    A number of shelters and telephone help lines operate throughout 
the country. In addition to providing women with shelter and advice, 
many offer assistance on legal matters, job placement, and 
psychological counseling for both partners. Approximately 80 percent of 
these organizations' budgets are provided by one of the three regional 
governments.
    The law prohibits organizing prostitution or assisting immigration 
for the purpose of prostitution, but not prostitution itself. 
Parliament enacted a law in 1995 that defined and criminalized 
trafficking in persons, but cases of trafficking in women continued 
(see Section 6.f.).
    Sexual harassment is illegal. The Government implemented procedures 
to monitor sexual harassment claims in the private sector in 1992 and 
in the public sector in 1995. Victims of sexual harassment have the 
right to sue their harassers under existing law. A 1998 government 
investigation of sexual harassment determined that one out of three 
women is harassed sexually in the workplace. Due to improper 
interpretation of sexual harassment and victim denial, this figure is 
considered understated.
    In May a revision of the law on equal opportunity in the workplace 
was passed, which stated that sexual harassment can be a form of sexual 
discrimination. The act outlaws discrimination in hiring, working 
conditions, promotion, wages, and contract termination. Due to the 
revision, sexual harassment can result in civil and administrative 
action by the Ministry of Labor. It now has a broader legal basis in 
court, and victims of sexual harassment have an additional recourse--
reversal of proof, which requires the defendant to provide evidence in 
the case. Reversal of proof only occurs in cases in which sexual 
harassment is judged in a court as a form of sexual discrimination. As 
a result of the new codes, more cases now go to the Labor Court. 
However, despite the new laws, most cases of sexual harassment are 
resolved informally.
    Equal treatment of men and women is provided for by the 
Constitution, federal law, and treaties incorporated into law. The 
Government actively promotes a comprehensive approach to the 
integration of women at all levels of decisionmaking. The Division of 
Equal Opportunity, a part of the Ministry of Labor, focuses 
specifically on issues affecting women, including violence against 
women, sexual harassment, and the participation of women in the 
political process. Beginning in 1999, federal law requires that one-
third of all candidates for elected office be women.
    The female unemployment rate (10.9 percent at the end of 1998) 
exceeded the male unemployment rate (6.7 percent), according to one 
government study released in June. The net average salary for a woman 
is only 84 percent of the national average salary.
    Children.--The Government demonstrates its strong commitment to 
children's rights and welfare through its well-funded system of public 
education and health care. It provides compulsory education up to the 
age of 18. The Francophone and Flemish communities have agencies 
specifically dealing with children's needs.
    Government and private groups provide shelters for runaways and 
counseling for children who were abused physically or sexually.
    There are comprehensive child protection laws. Children have the 
right to a voice in court cases that affect them, such as divorce 
proceedings. The law states that a minor ``capable of understanding'' 
can request permission to be heard by a judge, or that a judge can 
request an interview with a child. In 1995 the Government enacted laws 
designed to combat child pornography by increasing penalties for such 
crimes and for those in possession of pedophilic materials. The law 
permits the prosecution of Belgian citizens who commit such crimes 
abroad and provides that criminals convicted of the sexual abuse of 
children cannot receive parole without first receiving specialized 
assistance and must continue counseling and treatment upon their 
release from prison.
    Belgium is both a transit point and a destination for trafficking 
in children (see Section 6.f.).
    In another response to public criticism of the handling of the 
pedophile case (see Sections 1.e. and 6.f.), the Government assisted in 
the establishment of Child Focus, a center for missing and exploited 
children that opened in December 1997. During its first 9 months of 
operation, the center's hot line received 23,000 calls, averaging 80 
calls per day, resulting in 639 active cases. A total of 77 percent of 
the cases related to runaways or parental abductions. The remaining 
cases involved missing children (12 percent) and sexual exploitation 
(11 percent). By comparison, in the first 9 months of 1999, the hot 
line averaged over 120 calls per day.
    Child prostitution is of limited scope, but in response to 
recommendations made in a 1994 government study, the police received 
instructions to be especially diligent in combating prostitution among 
those who appear to be under the age of 18.
    There is no societal pattern of abuse directed against children.
    People with Disabilities.--The law provides for the protection of 
disabled persons from discrimination in employment, education, and in 
the provision of other state services. The Government mandates that 
public buildings erected since 1970 be accessible to the disabled and 
offers subsidies to induce the owners of other buildings to make 
necessary modifications. However, many older buildings are not 
accessible.
    The Government provides financial assistance for the disabled. It 
gives special aid to parents of disabled children and to disabled 
parents. Regional and community programs provide other assistance, such 
as job training. Disabled persons are eligible to receive services in 
any of the three regions (Flanders, Wallonia, or Brussels), not just 
their region of residence.
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities--Belgium is a pluralistic society 
in which individual differences in general are respected, and 
linguistic rights in particular are protected. Some 60 percent of 
citizens are native Dutch speakers, about 40 percent are French 
speakers, and fewer than 1 percent are German speakers.
    An Antiracism Law penalizes the incitement of discrimination, hate, 
or violence based on race, ethnicity, or nationality. It is illegal for 
providers of goods or services (including housing) to discriminate on 
the basis of any of these factors and for employers to consider these 
factors in their decisions to hire, train, or dismiss workers.
    In 1998 the Center for Equal Opportunity and the Fight Against 
Racism, a parliamentary organization tasked with investigating 
complaints of discrimination based on race, handled 1,241 complaints 
leading to mediation or court action in 848 cases. In the first 6 
months of 1999 the Center handled approximately 550 complaints, 299 of 
which resulted in mediation or court action.
    In 1998 legal actions were completed against six paratroopers who 
participated in the 1993 U.N. peacekeeping operation in Somalia and who 
were accused of dishonorable, racist acts there. Two were acquitted due 
to lack of evidence, two received probation, one received a suspended 
sentence unrelated to racism, and one received a 12-month prison 
sentence, a fine, and a 5-year suspension of civil and political 
rights. In the aftermath of the process, the armed forces performed an 
internal investigation of racism, but the review found no indication 
that it was a systemic problem. Despite this finding, during the year 
the armed forces began mandatory diversity training for all new 
employees.
Section 6. Worker Rights
    a. The Right of Association.--Under the Constitution, workers have 
the right to associate freely, which includes the freedom to organize 
and join unions of their own choosing. The Government does not hamper 
such activities, and workers fully and freely exercise their right of 
association. About 60 percent of workers are members of labor unions. 
This number includes employed and unemployed workers. Unions are 
independent of the Government but have important links with major 
political parties. The Government does not require unions to register.
    In its 1999 report, the International Labor Organization's 
Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and 
Recommendations reiterated its criticism that the Government should 
adopt legislation establishing ``objective, predetermined, and detailed 
criteria'' to enable employers' organizations and trade unions to have 
access to the National Labor Council. Because of restrictive 
interpretation of the legislation in force, only the Christian, 
Socialist, and Liberal trade union confederations have access to the 
National Labor Council.
    In order to exclude trade unions from the Criminal Organizations 
bill, the trade unions forced amendment to the bill in a January 10 
act. Unions feared that the bill would undermine their basic rights, 
including the right to strike.
    Unions have the right to strike, and even strikes by civil servants 
and workers in ``essential'' services are tolerated. However, seamen, 
the military, and magistrates have no right to strike. In January the 
Gendarmerie obtained a limited right to strike as part of the police 
reform package; this provision is to be implemented by April 1, 2001.
    Even though many strikes begin as wildcat actions, strikers are not 
prosecuted for failure to observe strike procedures in collective 
bargaining agreements. Crimes committed during a strike action, such as 
causing bodily harm or damage to property, are clearly illegal strike 
methods, which the authorities prosecute.
    The December 1998 act on the merger of the police forces gave the 
federal police the right to strike. The Government has the authority to 
order necessary forces back to work during a strike in order to 
maintain law and order.
    The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) in its 
``Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights 1999'' again 
mentioned that for several years employers made applications to civil 
courts to end strikes. The report added that, more recently, judges 
tend to rule that labor conflicts are not within their jurisdiction. 
This stance reinforces the widely accepted practice that any discussion 
of the right to strike is a subject for collective bargaining between 
workers and employers and not a legal matter. Although draft laws were 
submitted, no legal action was taken by Parliament to end the legal 
confusion.
    Unions are free to form or join federations or confederations and 
are free to affiliate with international labor bodies.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--The right to 
organize and bargain collectively is recognized, protected, and 
exercised freely. Every other year the employers' federation and the 
unions negotiate a nationwide collective bargaining agreement, covering 
2.4 million private sector workers, that establishes the framework for 
negotiations at the plant and branch levels. In the fall of 1998, 
employers and unions agreed on a nationwide collective bargaining 
agreement that focuses on collective bargaining at the branch and plant 
levels and limits compensation increases to 5.9 percent for the 1999-
2000 period. The agreement covers cost of living adjustments, wage 
increases, and job creation measures.
    The law prohibits discrimination against organizers and members of 
unions and protects against the termination of contracts of members of 
workers' councils, members of health or safety committees, and shop 
stewards. Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination are 
required to reinstate workers fired for union activities. Effective 
mechanisms such as the labor courts exist for adjudicating disputes 
between labor and management.
    In May and in anticipation of the merger of the police forces, 
Parliament enacted new legislation on collective bargaining procedures 
between the federal authorities and the unions and professional 
organizations representing all law enforcement agents.
    There are no export processing zones.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--The law prohibits 
forced or compulsory labor, and it is not known to occur. The law also 
prohibits forced and bonded child labor, and the Government enforces 
this prohibition effectively.
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--The minimum age for employment of children is 15, but 
education is compulsory until age 18. Youths between the ages of 15 and 
18 may participate in part-time work/study programs and may work full 
time during school vacations. The labor courts effectively monitor 
compliance with national laws and standards. There are no industries 
where any significant child labor exists. The Government prohibits 
forced and bonded child labor and enforces this prohibition effectively 
(see Section 6.c.).
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--The monthly national minimum 
wage for workers over 21 years of age is $1,228 (45,427 Belgian 
francs); 18-year-olds must be paid at least 82 percent of the minimum, 
19-year-olds 88 percent, and 20-year-olds 94 percent. The minimum wage, 
coupled with extensive social benefits, provides workers with a 
standard of living appropriate to a highly developed nation. Minimum 
wages in the private sector are set in biennial, nationwide collective 
bargaining meetings (see Section 6.b.), which lead to formal agreements 
signed in the National Labor Council and made mandatory by royal decree 
for the entire private sector. In the public sector, the minimum wage 
is determined in negotiations between the Government and the public 
service unions. The Ministry of Labor effectively enforces the law 
regarding minimum wages. By law the standard workweek cannot exceed 39 
hours and must have at least one 24-hour rest period. Many collective 
bargaining agreements set standard workweeks of 35 to 38 hours. The law 
requires overtime pay for hours worked in excess of the standard. Work 
done from the 9th to the 11th hour per day or from the 40th to the 50th 
hour per week is considered allowable overtime. Longer workdays are 
permitted only if agreed upon in a collective bargaining agreement. 
These laws and regulations are enforced effectively by the Ministry of 
Labor and the labor courts.
    The law calls for comprehensive provisions for worker safety. 
Collective bargaining agreements can supplement these laws. Workers 
have the right to remove themselves from situations that endanger their 
safety or health without jeopardy to their continued employment, and 
the law protects workers who file complaints about such situations. The 
Labor Ministry implements health and safety legislation through a team 
of inspectors and determines whether workers qualify for disability and 
medical benefits. The law mandates health and safety committees in 
companies with more than 50 employees. Labor courts effectively monitor 
compliance with national health and safety laws and standards.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--A 1995 law defines and criminalizes 
trafficking in persons. Under the law, victims of trafficking may be 
granted temporary residence permits and are eligible to receive aid 
from government-funded reception centers. Since 1994 the majority of 
cases were victims of either sexual or economic exploitation. The 
victims of sexual exploitation increasingly are women under age 18. 
Since enactment of this law, a magistrate was designated in each 
judicial district to supervise cases involving trafficking in persons. 
As a result of the new law, the Government reports significant 
increases in witness testimony and the successful prosecution of 
traffickers.
    Belgium is both a transit point and destination for trafficking in 
women and children. In September the three NGO's involved in assisting 
victims of trafficking in persons reported 185 active cases of 
trafficking in women from over 30 countries. The largest number of 
victims were Albanian. Cases on 28 children from 7 different countries 
also were active; the largest number were from Albania and Macedonia.
    In 1996 the authorities uncovered a suspected pedophile/child 
pornography and trafficking ring. The criminal investigation of this 
suspected ring continued during the year. Five suspects remained in 
detention; however, their trial is unlikely to begin before mid-2000. 
In February a parliamentary commission, appointed in the aftermath of 
this case and tasked with investigating allegations of corruption and 
complicity in the law enforcement and judicial systems, issued its 
report. The commission sharply criticized the entire judicial system, 
including both the police and judiciary for undisciplined, inept, and 
potentially corrupt handling of the pedophile scandal and associated 
crimes. It also recommended that disciplinary action be considered 
against numerous police officers and magistrates involved in this 
investigation. As of September, only one police officer received a 
warning. No other officials were disciplined.

                         BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

    The 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and 
Herzegovina (the Dayton Accords) created the independent state of 
Bosnia and Herzegovina, previously one of the constituent republics of 
Yugoslavia. The agreement also created two multiethnic constituent 
entities within the state: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina 
(the Federation) and the Republika Srpska (RS). The Federation, which 
has a postwar Bosniak and Croat majority, occupies 51 percent of the 
territory; the RS, which has a postwar Bosnian Serb majority, occupies 
49 percent. The Constitution (Annex 4 of the Dayton Accords) 
establishes a statewide government with a bicameral legislature, a 
three-member presidency (consisting of a Bosniak, a Serb, and a Croat), 
a council of ministers, a constitutional court, and a central bank. The 
Accords also provided for the Office of the High Representative (OHR) 
to oversee implementation of civilian provisions. The entities maintain 
separate armies, but under the Constitution, these are under the 
ultimate control of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1998 
Bosnia and Herzegovina held its most peaceful and pluralistic elections 
since the 1995 Dayton Accords put an end to 3 years of war. Multiethnic 
parties committed to building on the foundation established at Dayton 
made some progress during the presidential and assembly elections. At 
the same time, the largest political parties, which won a majority of 
assembly seats, continued to be ethnically based. These were the 
Bosniak-dominated Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the Croatian 
Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ), and the Serb 
Democratic Party-Serb Radical Party coalition (SDS/SRS). Although 
formally independent, the judiciary remains subject to influence by 
political parties and the executive branch.
    One of the two entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina, the 
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was established in March 1994 and 
transformed the government structure of the Bosnian territories under 
Bosniak and Croatian control. The President of the Federation appoints 
the Prime Minister subject to parliamentary approval. The Federation 
Parliament is bicameral. Federation structures have been implemented 
only gradually. Major steps were the creation of canton governments, 
the unification of Sarajevo under Federation control in spring 1996, 
and the 1996 and 1998 elections of the Federation Parliament. However, 
serious ethnic and political rivalries continue to divide Croats and 
Bosniaks. Parallel Bosniak and Croat government structures often exist 
in practice.
    The Republika Srpska of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RS) is the other 
entity. In 1997-98 most of the RS political and administrative agencies 
moved from Pale, a stronghold of former Bosnian Serb leader and 
indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, to Banja Luka. The President 
and Vice President were elected in 1998 for 2-year terms. Their terms 
of office are to increase to 4 years after the 2000 elections. The RS 
National Assembly is unicameral and elected on a proportional basis. 
The 1998 elections were relatively free and fair but resulted in the 
election of a hard-line president, Nikola Poplasen of the SRS. He 
refused to nominate a candidate for prime minister with sufficient 
support in the RS Assembly to form a government. This episode 
eventually contributed to a confrontation with the OHR in which the OHR 
removed Poplasen from office on March 5. Vice President Nikola Sarovic 
has not yet been permitted to step into the position.
    Also on March 5, but unrelated to Poplasen's dismissal, Roberts B. 
Owen, arbitrator for the Brcko Arbitral Tribunal, announced a final 
award, whereby the entire prewar Brcko municipality was to become a 
``self-governing neutral district,'' which would belong to both 
entities. The award delegated to the district's internationally 
appointed supervisor the responsibility for deciding when the district 
would begin to govern itself under a new district statute. Until then 
the supervisor would retain ultimate authority over the district. The 
final disposition of this region was a highly sensitive issue since the 
region of Brcko connects the eastern and western sections of the RS. 
Until new laws are issued or existing laws are adapted, the supervisor 
retains discretion as to which laws, Federation or RS, are to apply in 
Brcko. A new district statute was issued by the supervisor on December 
7, and a districtwide multiethnic police force was to be established 
officially in January 2000. Demilitarization of the Brcko district was 
underway and scheduled to be completed by the end of February 2000. On 
August 18, the Brcko Tribunal issued an annex to the final award, 
clarifying implementation of the award. In particular, it established 
the citizenship status of district residents and confirmed the right of 
transit by military forces of both entities. It also directed the 
supervisor to address such issues as taxation, law enforcement, 
district management, and composition of the district assembly.
    The Constitution gives the government of each entity responsibility 
for law enforcement in accordance with internationally recognized 
standards. The Stabilization Force (SFOR), led by NATO, continued to 
implement the military aspects of the Dayton Accords and create a 
secure environment for implementation of the nonmilitary aspects of the 
settlement, such as: Civilian reconstruction, the return of refugees 
and displaced persons, elections, and freedom of movement of the 
civilian population. The International Police Task Force (IPTF), 
established by the United Nations under Annex 11 of the Dayton Accords, 
oversees police restructuring and training. The IPTF also may 
investigate human rights abuses. Police in both entities have violated 
international standards and discriminated on political, religious, and 
ethnic grounds. However, with training and increased professionalism of 
the police and the increasing activism of professional standards units, 
these cases were decreasing compared with 1998. During the year, both 
the Federation and the RS used internal affairs units to investigate 
and dismiss officers. Police continued to suffer from the legacy of a 
Communist system, with ``special'' or secret police operating in all 
areas. These forces were outside the normal police chain of command, 
reporting directly to the senior political leadership. In addition to 
locally recruited police forces, each entity also maintains an army. 
Security forces committed human rights abuses throughout the country.
    The economy remains weak and dependent upon international 
assistance. During the year gross domestic product (GDP) was $3.5 
billion in the Federation; estimates of the GDP in the RS were lower. 
According to government statistics, GDP per capita was $600 for both 
entities. The continued return of refugees from abroad was expected to 
compound the problem of job creation and to reduce remittances. 
International assistance financed infrastructure reconstruction and 
provided loans to the manufacturing sector.
    The commitment to respect citizens' human rights and civil 
liberties remains tenuous in the country, and the degree of respect for 
these rights continues to vary among areas with Bosniak, Bosnian Croat, 
and Bosnian Serb majorities; serious human rights abuses continued in 
several areas.
    There were four deaths in custody, all in the RS, and isolated 
instances of political, ethnic, or religious killings continued. 
Killings due to bombings and booby traps also continued. Human rights 
abuses by the police continued during the year, and serious problems 
persisted. Police continued to commit abuses throughout the country, 
principally the physical abuse of detainees. Some police in the RS beat 
refugees. Police in all areas also used excessive force, or did not 
ensure security, to discourage minority resettlement in majority areas. 
Members of security forces also abused and physically mistreated other 
citizens. Prison conditions continued to be poor in both entities.
    In the RS, criminal procedure legislation that was held over from 
the prewar Yugoslav period granted police wide latitude to detain 
suspects for long periods of time before filing charges. However, there 
were fewer cases of arbitrary arrest and detention than in the previous 
year. Confusion over the rules for arrest and detention of suspects for 
The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former 
Yugoslavia (ICTY) has led in some instances to questionable detentions 
in both the Federation and the RS. While its rhetorical support for 
cooperation with the ICTY has improved, the RS continues its de facto 
refusal to take action against any Serbs indicted by the ICTY.
    The judiciary in both entities remained subject to coercive 
influence by dominant political parties and by the executive branch. In 
many areas, close ties exist between courts of law and the ruling 
parties, and those judges who show independence are subject to 
intimidation by the authorities. Even when independent decisions are 
rendered, local authorities often refuse to carry them out. Authorities 
in all areas infringed on citizens' privacy rights.
    Authorities and dominant political parties exerted influence over 
the media and freedom of speech and of the press was limited to varying 
degrees in the different entities. During the year, the High 
Representative imposed a new media law for the Federation and a series 
of amendments to the media law in the RS. The High Representative also 
imposed measures removing criminal penalties for slander and libel. 
Academic freedom was restricted. Authorities imposed some limits on 
freedom of assembly and association. Religious discrimination remained 
a problem. Both governments and private groups continued to restrict 
religious practices by minorities in majority areas. Although freedom 
of movement continued to improve, some limits remained in practice.
    Discrimination against women persists, prostitution is widespread, 
and trafficking in women and trafficking in women and girls is a 
serious problem. Severe discrimination continues in areas dominated by 
one ethnic group, particularly in the treatment of refugees and 
displaced persons. The political leadership at all levels, in varying 
degrees, in both entities continues to obstruct minority returns. Local 
authorities and mobs (in most cases believed to be organized or 
approved by local authorities) harassed minority returnees and 
violently resisted their return. The destruction of minority-owned 
houses continued, particularly in Croat-controlled areas. Marginal 
economic conditions and severe discrimination in the educational system 
also complicated returns. Enactment of property legislation proceeded 
in both entities under pressure from the international community, but 
implementation was sporadic and very slow. Mob violence was a serious 
problem. Some restrictions on freedom of movement continued. Ethnic 
discrimination remains a serious problem.
    During the year, there were increased efforts on the part of SFOR 
to apprehend perpetrators of wartime atrocities. SFOR's more aggressive 
approach of apprehending individuals indicted by the ICTY, which began 
in the summer of 1997, resulted during the year in the apprehension of 
7 (including 1 killed) indictees out of the 93 publicly indicted by the 
Tribunal. This brought the total number of indictees taken into custody 
since the Tribunal's inception to 35. At year's end there were 32 
persons in ICTY custody awaiting trial or on trial. There was one death 
in custody during an attempted arrest of an indictee, and several 
deaths in custody during the year. There were 31 public indictees still 
at large at year's end. ICTY trials during the year resulted in 2 
convictions and no acquittals.
                        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 killings by police; however, there were four 
deaths in custody, all in the RS. On August 13 in Kozarac, a Bosniak 
returnee shot and killed the leader of an Orthodox religious 
association. A Bosniak who recently converted to the Orthodox religion 
also was killed in the incident. The shooting stemmed from a dispute 
over the property where the shooting occurred. The perpetrator died in 
police custody. While his death was judged a suicide by local 
authorities, IPTF officials are not convinced of that determination, 
and their investigation into the incident was ongoing at year's end.
    On March 16, Federation Deputy Interior Minister Jozo Leutar, a 
Bosnian Croat, was injured fatally in a car bombing in the center of 
Sarajevo on March 16; he died on March 28. Two other persons in the car 
also were injured. Ethnic divisions within the police and political 
interference from some quarters hampered progress of the investigation, 
which remains a contentious political issue. At year's end, no suspects 
had been arrested. However, UN officials have stated publicly that 
suspects were identified.
    In April a Sokolac court in the RS acquitted six Bosniak suspects 
who had been tortured by RS police while they were being interrogated 
for the August 1998 murder of Pale Public Security Center Deputy Chief 
Srdjan Knezevic. The judge found that there was insufficient evidence 
to link them to the crime.
    In May a trial began against Bosniak Muris Ljubucic for the July 
1998 bombing that killed Croat Travnik police officer Anto Vajan. This 
was the first indictment and trial since violence against Croat police 
officers began in 1998. The trial ended in an acquittal.
    Many, if not most, of the perpetrators of killings and other brutal 
acts committed in previous years remained unpunished. This includes war 
criminals indicted by the ICTY, those responsible for the up to 8,000 
killed by the Bosnian Serb Army after the fall of Srebrenica, and those 
responsible for up to 13,000 others still missing and presumed killed 
as a result of ``ethnic cleansing'' in Bosnia. In April a Sarajevo 
court sentenced Goran Vasic to 10 years in prison for war crimes during 
the 1992-95 conflict, although he was acquitted in the 1993 murder of 
Deputy Prime Minister Hakija Turajlic due to lack of evidence.
    During the year, there were increased efforts on the part of SFOR 
to apprehend perpetrators of wartime atrocities. SFOR's more aggressive 
approach of apprehending individuals indicted by the ICTY, which began 
in the summer of 1997, resulted during the year in the apprehension of 
7 indictees out of the 93 publicly indicted by the Tribunal. Seven were 
detained forcibly, and none turned themselves in to NATO troops. This 
brought the total number of indictees taken into custody since the 
Tribunal's inception to 35. At year's end there were 32 persons in ICTY 
custody awaiting trial or on trial.
    In January indicted war criminal Dragon Gagovic was killed during 
an attempt by SFOR to detain him (see Section 1.b.). The ICTY indicted 
Gagovic in June 1995 for crimes against humanity and for grave breaches 
of the laws or customs of war. During SFOR's attempt to arrest him, 
Gagovic attempted to ram SFOR soldiers with his car. The soldiers 
opened fire and hit Gagovic, who was pronounced dead on arrival at a 
nearby hospital. There were several other deaths in custody during the 
year. On June 7, Dragan Kulundzija who was charged with murder was 
arrested by SFOR. According to the ICTY indictment, Kulundzija 
subjected detainees to torture and inhumane treatment while serving as 
a shift commander at the Keraterm concentration camp near Prijedor. In 
June SFOR troops arrested Radomir Kovac, a subcommander of the RS 
military police and a paramilitary leader in Foca, who was charged with 
a ``grave breach'' of the 1949 Geneva Convention and crimes including 
the rape and enslavement of women. In July SFOR troops arrested 
Radoslav Brdjanin who was the Bosnian Serb Vice President during the 
war. Austrian police arrested Momir Talic, commander of the RS army, in 
Vienna on August 25 during an Organization for Security and Cooperation 
in Europe (OSCE) sponsored conference on military ethics. Talic was the 
subject of a sealed indictment from the ICTY for war crimes against the 
civilian population and ``willful killing'' when he served as the 
commander of Serb forces in northwest Bosnia in 1992. Talic was 
transferred to The Hague immediately after his arrest. In December SFOR 
troops arrested former Bosnian Serb Major General Stanislav Galic. Of 
the 31 public indictees still at large at year's end, the majority 
reportedly live in the RS (many allegedly in Prijedor and Foca), 
although RS authorities made no effort to arrest these indictees. The 
ICTY during the year issued 2 convictions and no acquittals. This 
brings the total number of convictions to 13 since ICTY's inception. In 
October the ICTY acquitted Bosnian Serb Goran Jelisic on genocide 
charges; Jelisic previously had pled guilty to 31 counts of war crimes 
and crimes against humanity.
    b. Disappearance.--There were no reports of politically motivated 
disappearances during the year.
    The OHR in late 1997 took the lead in forging an agreement among 
the Bosniak, Bosnian Croat, and Bosnian Serb commissions for missing 
persons to expedite exhumations across the interentity boundary line 
(IEBL). The State Commission for Missing Persons reported that the 
remains of an estimated 1,199 persons had been recovered in the first 8 
months of the year. Of those, 829 were Bosniaks, 120 were Croats, and 
240 were Serbs. In addition to those killed in Srebrenica and Zepa, the 
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that since 
1995 it received requests from family members to trace 19,834 persons 
missing from the war years: 2,024 of these persons were accounted for 
(281 of whom were found alive). The ICRC noted that Serb, Croat, and 
Bosniak authorities were in a position to provide more information in 
response to its inquiries, particularly those concerning 286 persons, 
known to have been detained at one time in connection with the war, who 
remained missing.
    The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) funds the 
interentity exhumations process, provides support to families of the 
missing, and puts political pressure on Bosnian officials to provide 
information on missing persons.
    c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment.--The Constitution provides for the right to freedom from 
torture and cruel or inhuman treatment or punishment; however, in all 
areas of the country, police and prison officials abused and physically 
mistreated persons at the time of arrest and during detention. There 
were reports of RS police beating refugees during the year, and there 
were serious incidents of police beatings and torture in Pale and 
Teslic in the RS and in Capljina in the Federation in 1998.
    U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and OSCE monitors heard 
reports from Kosovar refugees of numerous human rights violations 
perpetrated by RS police. These violations included beatings, 
harassment, and extortion of money (see Section 2.d.). Refugees also 
reported incidents of RS police confiscating and destroying refugees' 
documents.
    The military at times used force to prevent the eviction of 
soldiers and the return of prewar owners (see Section 2.d.).
    Serb police continued to employ excessive force to prevent Bosniak 
former residents from returning to, or staying in, RS territory. 
Similar patterns of abuse occurred in Croat majority areas. A pattern 
of poor police protection and violence against minority communities 
continued in several areas. Police in Stolac and in Gacko proved 
unwilling or unable to contain the numerous instances of arson designed 
to intimidate returnees. In January the IPTF and the U.N. determined 
that the Stolac police had failed to respond adequately to over 70 
instances of violence against or intimidation of returnees in 1998. In 
addition, the IPTF found that the command structure of the Stolac 
police department was inadequate and vulnerable to outside influence. 
As a result, every member of the Stolac police administration was 
placed on a 3-month probation starting February 3. In May the IPTF 
determined that surplus officers had been removed, integration of 
minority officers had progressed, and security planning for returning 
refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP's) had improved. 
However, the Stolac police force is not yet sufficiently integrated, 
effective, or professional. The IPTF concluded that the deficiencies of 
the Stolac police force were symptomatic of law enforcement problems 
throughout the Herzegovina-Neretva canton.
    There also were instances in which police did not act to halt mob 
violence. In August the OSCE replaced Drvar mayor Mile Marceta with 
Momcilo Bajic after repeated threats against Marceta made it impossible 
for him to fulfill his responsibilities. Marceta was supportive of Serb 
returns to Drvar. The Drvar police did not make a sufficient effort to 
protect Marceta. The OSCE also removed Borivoj Malbasic as president of 
the municipal council. In addition, the High Representative, working 
with the IPTF, removed the interior minister of Herzeg Bosna canton 
after he failed to promote security in the canton and to investigate a 
number of violent incidents.
    At times some police officers impeded the enforcement of the law by 
their unwillingness to execute eviction orders. Government leaders in 
both the RS and the Federation often have used a variety of tactics, 
including public statements, to inhibit the return of IDP's (see 
Section 2.d.).
    In April a Sokolac court in the RS acquitted six suspects who had 
been tortured by RS police while they were being interrogated for the 
August 1998 murder of Pale Public Security Center Deputy Chief Srdjan 
Knezevic.
    The IPTF made significant progress in its efforts to restructure 
and increase professionalism in the police force. The IPTF neared 
completion of its programs to provide human dignity and basic skills 
training to all Federation and RS police officers. The IPTF continued 
its certification of Federation and RS police and decertified officers 
on a variety of charges. This process involved written and 
psychological examinations. In addition, an IPTF unit in The Hague 
checks all names of police officials through the ICTY data base. In 
October the RS police academy graduated its second class, with 81 men 
and 27 women representing different ethnic backgrounds. At year's end, 
the Federation Academy had begun training its fourth graduating class, 
containing a majority of ethnic Serb cadets. All Federation canton 
governments have agreed to an ethnically mixed police force in 
principle. The Federation police include Croat, as well as Bosniak, 
officers and generally reflect the appropriate ethnic mix within each 
canton. However, the police forces throughout the country generally do 
not reflect higher standards of ethnic representation required by 
various agreements. In practice, the majority of cantons have parallel 
police forces, with separate budgets and chains of command, divided 
along ethnic lines. Cooperation between the RS and the Federation 
Interior Ministries often is better than cooperation between federation 
cantons. The integration of women into the police force is uneven. Of 
the 22 academy cadets from Tuzla canton, 21 are women, and more than 
half of the cadets in the Federation police academy are women. However, 
in Brcko none of the 230 officers are women. In January three Roma 
became police officers in the Tuzla-Podrinje canton in the Federation.
    IPTF certification of officers proceeded more slowly in the RS, but 
there was progress on significant law enforcement reforms. In July 
1998, the RS National Assembly passed a law separating the police and 
intelligence forces. Police officials were trying to recruit more 
minority candidates. RS police and international monitors were in the 
process of establishing an IPTF physical presence within RS police 
facilities to ensure proper IPTF monitoring of police reforms. 
Authorities in the RS adopted a policies and procedures manual that 
instituted, among other reforms, a public information bureau and 
internal affairs unit. Under these reforms, the RS authorities fired 
officers accused of graft or brutality.
    In addition to attacks on members of other ethnic groups committed 
in both entities, Serbs in the RS threatened members of international 
organizations. On January 9, five IPTF monitors were injured, two of 
them seriously, in Foca following the death of indicted war criminal 
Dragon Gagovic (see Sections 1.a. and 4). The IPTF station was 
ransacked and two U.N. vehicles were burned. Gagovic died during an 
SFOR attempt to detain him. Later, 100 local residents attacked the 
IPTF station, badly damaging the office, equipment, and vehicles. 
International activities in Foca were suspended after the attack, and 
the IPTF currently has only a limited presence there. The RS Interior 
Ministry appointed the Foca chief of police to investigate the 
incident. The IPTF is monitoring the investigation.
    On March 5, in Ugljevik in the RS, a mob of between 15 and 20 
persons attacked 4 SFOR soldiers as they left a restaurant. As the 
soldiers ran for their vehicle, on was struck from behind with a club. 
When he was attacked a second time, he fired his weapon twice. His 
attacker, a local policeman, was pronounced dead on arrival at a local 
hospital.
    In late March, an SRS and SDS-inspired mob attacked international 
offices, including the U.S. embassy branch office in Banja Luka, which 
resulted in extensive damage and injury to a security guard. The mob 
was protesting the NATO bombing campaign against the FRY. Also in 
March, the OSCE reading room in Visegrad was the target of a rocket 
attack. There were bombings in or around IPTF stations in Trebinje, 
Gradiska, Bijeljina, and Pale. U.N. vehicles were burned in Bijeljina, 
Doboj, and Zvornik.
    In May two rocket propelled grenades and struck the living quarters 
of the Joint Commission Observer (JCO) in Zvornik. There were no 
reports of injuries, but two buildings were damaged.
    In August the residence of the European Union's Joint Commission 
Observer (JCO) in Doboj was attacked and slightly damaged by unknown 
perpetrators. No one was injured and local authorities were continuing 
their investigation at year's end.
    On October 14, an estimated 200 students threw rocks and bottles at 
troops from SFOR's Mobile Specialized Unite (MSU) outside the Interior 
Ministry building in Mostar. There were no reports of serious injuries. 
The attack came after SFOR began raids against municipal offices in 
Mostar that were undermining the Dayton Accords and after local radio 
broadcasts called on Croat residents to protest SFOR's actions (see 
Section 2.a.).
    On October 30 and 31, SFOR and IPTF personnel in Zvornik in the RS 
were targeted in separate grenade attacks. There were no injuries to 
SFOR or IPTF personnel, but one civilian was slightly injured in the 
attack.
    On October 6, it was reported that two masked men attacked and 
stabbed municipal council member Munib Hasanovic in the Srebrenica 
municipal building in the RS. RS police opened an investigation into 
the attack and the IPTF was monitoring its progress closely, although 
there was no progress in the case by year's end.
    Individual and societal violence continued to be a problem and 
numerous bombings caused injuries. On February 10, a Bosnian Croat 
policeman in Travnik was injured by a car bomb, which detonated when he 
opened the door of his private vehicle, parked near the Travnik police 
station. The IPTF is monitoring the investigation by local authorities, 
which continued at year's end. Local police have not concluded their 
investigation, but this attack was one of a series of violent incidents 
in Central Bosnia canton, an area with a population almost equally 
divided between Bosniaks and Croats.
    A pattern of deliberate mob violence against Serbs who sought to 
return to their prewar homes continued throughout the year, especially 
in Travnik, but such incidents decreased in number and severity 
compared to 1998. In June eight persons were injured in the RS village 
of Tarevci during visits by returning refugees and IDP's. A crowd of 
Serbs gathered and threw sticks and stones at the approximately 60 
Bosniak returnees there, who reportedly yelled provocative statements 
as they drove through town. An unidentified Serb threw a grenade into 
the crowd. Local police did not take effective action to improve the 
situation or to find those responsible for the attack. In July several 
violent incidents occurred in Drvar. Croat residents protested against 
further returns after the alleged rape of a Croat woman by a Serb man. 
(International law enforcement officials have concluded that this 
allegation was untrue.) SFOR increased its presence in the area. On 
July 3, an elderly Serb couple was attacked by Croat youths and 
injured. On July 4, another violent physical exchange occurred between 
Croats and Serbs. In August Bosnian Croat residents of Drvar beat three 
elderly Bosnian Serb returnee men. Local police at the scene allowed 
the perpetrators to leave but took the victims to the police station to 
give statements. On March 20, a Bosniak-owned home was bombed in the 
predominantly Croat town of Stolac. In April there were several violent 
incidents directed at Bosniak returnees in Borovnica in Prozor-Rama 
municipality, including a hand grenade that damaged a mosque and the 
arson of homes of several Bosniak returnees. Also in April, Bosniak and 
Croat residents traded gunfire between the Croat village of Urici and 
the Bosniak village of Memici-Blace. On April 27, unknown persons 
planted a bomb that exploded and caused a fire at the home of middle 
Bosnia canton former governor Ivan Saric in a village outside of Gornje 
Vakuf. No one was injured. An investigation was opened by canton and 
Federation antiterrorism officers. In May two Bosniak returnee houses 
in the Novi Grad area of the RS were attacked. One was destroyed by an 
explosion. Novi Grad continues to be a stronghold of hard-line Serbs. 
On September 9, unknown persons attacked the Bosniak village of 
Fazlagica Kula near Gacko in the RS with what appeared to be hand 
grenades. There were no reported injuries.
    Prior to the attack, Bosniak returnees in the village were harassed 
with taunts and driveby shootings.
    During the year there were several attacks on the homes of Romani 
families returning to Bijeljina, including grenades and bombs thrown 
into the yards outside their houses.
    Conditions in Federation and RS prisons are poor and well below 
minimum international standards in terms of overcrowding, hygiene, and 
access to medical care. Facilities are antiquated and extremely poor.
    International community representatives were given widespread and 
for the most part unhindered access to detention facilities and 
prisoners in the RS as well as in the Federation.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--There were fewer cases 
of arbitrary arrest and detention in both the Federation and the RS 
compared with 1998. In prior years, police in both entities enjoyed 
great latitude based on Communist-era criminal procedure laws that 
permitted them to detain persons for up to 6 months without bringing 
formal charges against them. The Federation revised these laws, 
removing this power from police, although not from investigative 
judges. The detention laws remain in force in the RS.
    In one unconfirmed report, RS police in Sokolac detained several 
draft-aged male refugees from the FRY at the police station in the 
spring.
    Human rights NGO's contend that there are cases in which persons 
who ostensibly are detained on criminal charges actually are 
incarcerated for political reasons. For example, Ibrahim Djedovic, a 
parliamentary deputy for the Democratic National Union (DNZ), which the 
ruling Bosniak SDA views as a renegade party due to its activities 
during the war, was arrested and jailed in May 1997 for war crimes, 
after he arrived in Sarajevo to take up his parliamentary seat. The 
ICTY investigated Djedovic and decided not to arrest him for his 
alleged activities. Most local and international observers believe that 
Djedovic was arrested due to his political affiliation and not because 
of alleged war crimes. The Sarajevo cantonal court convicted and 
sentenced Djedovic to 10 years in 1998. He remained free at the end of 
1998 pending appeal of his conviction to the Federation Supreme Court 
and currently serves as a DNZ deputy in the Federation House of 
Representatives. A retrial in the case was ordered in June.
    There were no reports that forced exile generally was used as a 
legal punishment. However, in some Croat-dominated areas of the 
Federation, local Croat authorities and civilians attempted to expel 
returning Serbs. For example on July 3, the Canton 10 interior minister 
instructed the local police to expel all returnees who failed to change 
their registration from their previous temporary residence to Drvar and 
failed to obtain identification cards within 10 days. The action was an 
attempt to harass returnees since authorities also hindered returnees 
attempts to register (see Section 2.d.).
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--Both the Federation and RS 
Constitutions provide for an independent judiciary; however, the 
executive and the leading political parties continue to influence the 
judicial system. Party affiliation and political connections weighed 
heavily in the appointment of prosecutors and judges.
    The existing judicial hierarchy in the Federation consists of 
municipal courts, which have original jurisdiction in most civil and 
criminal cases; cantonal courts, which have appellate jurisdiction over 
the canton's municipalities; and three central courts (Constitutional, 
Supreme, and Human Rights--although the third of these is not 
operational). Reforms introduced by the OHR are to allow the Supreme 
Court to take immediate jurisdiction as the ``court of first instance'' 
for crimes including terrorism, organized crime, smuggling, and 
intercantonal crime. The Federation Constitution provides for the 
appointment of judges by the President, with the concurrence of the 
Vice President and the approval of the Assembly, to an initial term of 
5 years. Judges may be reappointed following this initial term to serve 
until the age of 70.
    The RS judicial hierarchy includes a Supreme Court to provide for 
the unified enforcement of the law and a Constitutional Court to assure 
conformity of laws, regulations, and general enactments with the 
Constitution. The RS has both municipal and district courts, with the 
district courts having appellate jurisdiction. Judges are appointed and 
recalled by the National Assembly and have life tenure.
    In June judicial associations in both entities adopted identical 
codes of ethics for judges and prosecutors. In August the OHR imposed 
laws strengthening the Federation prosecutor's office and protecting 
the identity of witnesses in sensitive cases in the Federation. The 
international community continued training programs in the Federation 
to familiarize judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the police 
with the Federation's newly reformed Criminal Code, which entered into 
effect in November 1998. The RS has not yet adopted similar criminal 
law reforms. Some NGO's expressed concern over the judicial selection 
process in eight federation cantons, especially in Sarajevo and Tuzla. 
Legal experts argued that the laws on judicial selection in those two 
cantons were inconsistent with the canton and Federation Constitutions.
    Both the Federation and RS Constitutions provide for open and 
public trials and give the accused the right to legal counsel.
    In May the RS Supreme Court ruled that three Bosniaks were 
wrongfully convicted of the 1996 murders of four Bosnian Serb 
woodcutters in Zvornik. A fourth defendant's conviction was upheld, but 
his sentence was reduced from 10 to 6 years. The convictions of three 
other defendants were overturned in May during an appeal in the RS 
district court in Bijeljina on the grounds that the defendants were 
denied the right to choose their own counsel. The original trial of all 
seven defendants was marred by pervasive and systematic human rights 
abuses. Confessions, coerced by torture, were the primary evidence used 
by prosecutors in the first trial. In its decision to release three of 
the remaining four defendants, the RS Supreme Court made no mention of 
human rights abuses committed by RS authorities during the 
investigation, the original trial, or the appeal. No date for a new 
trial was set by year's end.
    In March the cantonal court in Sarajevo acquitted Bosnian Serb 
Miodrag Andric, who was being tried for war crimes, after the court 
finally permitted witnesses to testify in a court in Rogatica in the 
RS.
    Human rights organizations reported that judicial institutions in 
both entities were controlled or influenced by the ruling parties. 
Courts were often reluctant or unwilling to try cases of human rights 
abuse referred to them. A lack of resources and a huge backlog of 
unresolved cases provided a convenient excuse for judicial inaction. 
Even when the courts rendered a fair judgment, local officials often 
refused to implement their decisions. This was especially the case for 
those who won decisions mandating eviction of illegal occupants from 
their property. In addition, organized crime elements sought to 
pressure judges, especially in central Bosnia and Herzeg-Neretva 
canton.
    There were no reports of political prisoners.
    f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina provides 
for the right to ``private and family life, home and correspondence,'' 
and the right to protection of property; however, authorities in all 
areas infringed on citizens' privacy rights.
    Since the war, large numbers of citizens have been denied the right 
to their property, either privately-held or collectively-owned 
property, to which citizens had occupancy rights under the Communist 
system. Enactment of property legislation has proceeded in both 
entities under pressure from the international community. Registration 
of property claims is largely complete in the Federation and underway 
in the RS. However, resolution of claims and implementation of 
decisions is extremely slow in both entities, and few claims were 
resolved during the year. The political leadership at all levels in 
both entities continues to obstruct minority returns by delaying needed 
reforms and refusing to implement decisions. The situation is 
particularly bad outside of Sarajevo canton. In particular, cases 
requiring evictions are subject to political manipulation and 
obstruction at every phase.
    Throughout the country, membership in the political party 
affiliated with one's ethnic group was considered the surest way to 
obtain, retain, or regain employment, especially in the management of 
socially owned enterprises (see Section 5).
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
    a. Freedom of Speech and Press.--The Constitution provides for 
freedom of speech and of the press; this right was respected partially 
in the Federation and in the western RS, but less so in the eastern RS. 
Within the Federation press freedom was restricted more severely in 
Croat-majority areas. Some progress was made in establishing 
independent media in some Federation cantons and in the RS, 
particularly in Banja Luka. The primary restraints on press freedom are 
control of the principal media by governing political parties and, in 
the case of newspapers, the unwillingness of Governments in either 
entity to provide access to kiosk networks under their control. Party-
controlled media--particularly Croatian state radio and television--are 
the dominant electronic media and information source in Croat-majority 
areas of the Federation. Most media continued to be noticeably biased.
    The ruling SDA party largely controls the Dnevni Avaz newspaper, 
which enjoys wide distribution in the Federation. Some opposition and 
independent newspapers operate in the Bosniak-majority areas of the 
Federation and in the RS, principally in Banja Luka. Oslobodjenje and 
Vecernje Novine are the leading independent dailies, and Dani and 
Slobodna Bosna are the most influential independent magazines in the 
Federation. One of the few independent magazines in the RS is Reporter, 
a weekly published by a former foreign correspondent of the Belgrade-
based independent Vreme, while Nezavisne Novine is an independent 
newspaper published in the western RS. Also in the RS, the Social-
Liberal Party publishes an opposition magazine, Novi Prelom, and the 
Social Democratic Party publishes a daily newspaper.
    Early in the year, authorities in Gradacac allegedly forced 
journalists to submit articles for review to a municipal office before 
they could be published.
    There is only one high capacity printing facility, Oko, in the 
Federation, and it is aligned closely with the newspaper Dnevni Avaz, 
which is backed by the ruling Bosniak SDA party. In June Oko delayed 
printing an issue of the magazine Dani which included a confidential 
Sarajevo internal affairs ministry document about government 
connections to criminals and the mafia. The official reason given for 
the delay in printing was damage to the printing press. However, in the 
meantime the internal affairs office publicly released some of the 
information in the article, i.e., a list of 14 criminals known to be 
residing in Sarajevo canton. In the RS, the state-owned printing 
company Glas Srpski also has a virtual monopoly. According to the 
editor in chief of the daily and weekly newspaper Nezavisne Novine, 
before the newspaper was to publish an unfavorable article about 
indicted war criminal Zeljko Raznjatovic (``Arkan''), he received 
threats from Raznjatovic who reportedly was tipped off about the 
article by Glas Srpski. The day the article appeared street vendors who 
were selling the newspaper allegedly were beaten by Arkan supporters, 
who also stole all that day's issues.
    It was difficult for independent and opposition media in the RS to 
gain access to the government-controlled kiosk distribution system. The 
same was true of some areas of the Federation, particularly in Croat-
controlled regions. In addition, the ruling parties exerted economic 
pressure by refusing to allow state-owed companies to advertise in the 
independent media. Some independent media in the two entities, for 
example, Dani and Reporter, assist in the distribution of each other's 
publications in their respective entities.
    On October 22, a car bomb attack on independent daily Nezavisne 
Novine editor in chief Zeljko Kopanja in Banja Luka resulted in the 
loss of his legs. The RS Interior Ministry and the Banja Luka police 
opened investigations into the case, but there were no results by 
year's end.
    In May unknown assailants in Mostar allegedly beat two Croatian 
journalists from Rijeka and accused them of publishing unfavorable 
articles for the Croatian opposition newspaper Novi List about 
Herzegovina politics and crime.
    The Independent Media Commission (IMC), established by the High 
Representative in 1998, is empowered to regulate broadcasting and other 
media in the country. In this capacity, the IMC licenses broadcasters, 
manages and assigns spectra for broadcasting, sets licensing fees, and 
enforces adherence to the code of practice. The IMC has broad authority 
to punish violations to the code of practice. It may issue warnings, 
impose fines, suspend or terminate licenses, seize equipment, and shut 
down operations of any broadcaster or media outlet in violation of the 
code of practice. The IMC issued numerous fines for violations of 
broadcasting standards by stations in both entities.
    In July the High Representative determined that the Governments of 
Bosnia and Herzegovina and the constituent entities had failed to take 
appropriate action to reform the broadcasting system. As a result, the 
High Representative imposed a series of laws and amendments 
restructuring the broadcasting system. These decisions provided for the 
liquidation of the current broadcaster, Radio Television Bosnia and 
Herzegovina (RTV BiH). In its place, OHR established a state-wide 
public broadcasting corporation, the Public Broadcasting System of 
Bosnia and Herzegovina (PBS BiH), which is to produce and broadcast at 
least 1 hour of news programming for radio and television. This 
programming is to focus on issues of statewide interest and joint 
institutions. The three constituent peoples of the country and other 
minority groups are to be represented in the system's administrative 
and editorial structures. PBS BiH is to represent the country in all 
international broadcast organizations.
    The July decision also established Radio Television of the 
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RTV FBiH) as the public 
broadcasting company of the Federation. RTV FBiH is to broadcast on two 
stations, one offering primarily Croatian-language programming and one 
offering Bosnian-language programming. RTV FBiH is required to provide 
programming for other minority groups in their own languages. The High 
Representative's decision specifies that ``programming must be based on 
truth, must respect human dignity and different opinions and 
convictions, and must promote the highest standards of human rights, 
peace and social justice, international understanding, protection of 
democratic freedoms and environment protection.'' The OHR appointed 14 
of the 21 members of the Board of Governors and imposed the remaining 7 
members who were to have been chosen by Parliament. As a result, there 
was no SDA influence on the Board. However, the SDA tried to obstruct 
the Board's activities by pressuring the political and business 
interests of board members.
    Croat-controlled areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina are covered by 
Croatian State Television (HRT). The three HRT channels come into the 
country by means of an over-the-border terrestrial broadcasting 
satellite, and an extensive rebroadcasting operation managed by the 
Mostar-based, Zagreb-controlled Erotel company. HRT's news programs and 
editorials frequently criticize the Dayton Accords. A December 1998 
decision by the IMC was intended to terminate the direct rebroadcast of 
the HRT by requiring that RTV BiH and Croat television broadcasters 
establish a Federation television system that meets the needs of all 
BiH citizens. However, availability of the HRT and satellite broadcasts 
were unchanged at year's end.
    Citing the RS government's lack of progress on an acceptable 
broadcasting law, in August the High Representative imposed a set of 
amendments to the RS broadcasting law. These amendments required Serb 
Radio Television (SRT) to change its name to Radio Television of 
Republika Srpska (RTRS). The High Representative required RTRS to 
comply with the country's broadcasting laws, regulations made by the 
IMC or its successor, and the laws of the RS. RTRS is required to 
provide timely, unbiased programming for all citizens of the RS. 
Finally, the OHR ordered that the RTRS Board of Governors was to 
consist of: ``six members representing independent journalism, the 
legal profession, the economic sector, the academic community, the 
syndicate of the Republika Srpska, and the employees of the RTRS, 
taking into account the cultural and linguistic diversity of the 
citizens of the Republika Srpska.'' RTRS restructuring is still in 
process. For the most part, the RTRS now adheres to IMC standards, a 
dramatic improvement over previous years. On November 5, RS Prime 
Minister Milorad Dodik and his cabinet decided to remove RTRS director 
Andelko Kozomara for his alleged hard-line bias and named Slavisa 
Sabljic as acting director. However, only the RTRS Board of Governors, 
and not the RS Government, has the right to replace the General 
Director.
    In April several associations of journalists from both entities 
agreed to an OHR-sponsored press code setting out the rights and 
responsibilities of journalists. The code includes articles prohibiting 
ethnic, gender or other discrimination and encouraging accurate and 
objective reporting.
    In July the High Representative, citing the failure of the State 
and entity level Governments to ensure protection of journalists' 
freedom of expression, suspended ``the applicability of imprisonment as 
a sanction under the provisions concerning libel and defamation.'' On 
September 2, the amendment decriminalizing slander and libel was 
published in the official gazette. There were no reports of journalists 
being tried for slander since the law was imposed by the OHR. The 
possibility of imprisonment for slander and libel was used to threaten 
journalists, and authorities apply slander laws selectively to punish 
opponents.
    For example, in June the municipal court of Sarajevo sentenced the 
editor in chief of Slobodna Bosna, Senad Avdic, to 3 months in prison 
and 1 year suspended sentence on charges of slander against former 
Zenica-Doboj canton minister of the interior, Semsudin Mehmedovic. 
However, on August 20, Avdic was acquitted of one charge of slander 
against former mayor of Prijedor Sead Cirkin. Avdic faces a total of 12 
charges of slander from various articles regarding corruption in the 
Federation.
    Despite this case, OHR's July decision to impose a law 
restructuring the media, if fully implemented, was expected to decrease 
political influence in broadcasting, improve objectivity, and generally 
increase freedom of expression in Bosnia. To date, the relevant 
authorities have not yet fully implemented the restructuring. The PBS 
BiH and the RTV FBiH existed only on paper at year's end. However, the 
RTRS is broadcasting under its new name.
    The international donor-supported television Open Broadcast Network 
(OBN) provides independent news and public affairs programming. The 
international community launched the OBN to be a cross-entity 
broadcaster and source of objective news. OBN can be seen by 80 percent 
of the population. The OBN still is working to improve its broadcast 
range. However, only a minority of viewers cite the OBN as their key 
source of news compared to TV BIH, the HRT, and the RTRS.
    Other independent television outlets include TV Hayat, Studio 99, 
OBN Banja Luka affiliate Alternative TV (ATV), and Independent TV (NTV) 
also out of Banja Luka, and several small TV stations scattered around 
the country. These broadcasters were originally municipal stations. 
They have not yet been fully privatized, and their legal ownership 
status remains unclear.
    In May the mayor of Zenica told the editor in chief of RTV Zenica 
that he would lose his job unless several other of the station's 
editors were dismissed. However, the situation was resolved after the 
editors sent a protest letter to the OHR and informed it of their 
situation.
    In April the OHR endorsed the decision by the IMC to rescind the 
license of Kanal S, which is based in Pale. Observers noted the 
channels inflammatory broadcasting, prior to the IMC's decision. At 
year's end, Kanal S was back on the air after fully complying with all 
IMC demands.
    In November the IMC ordered the private station Erotel TV to stop 
broadcasting. Mostar-based Erotel TV retransmits programs from state-
run Croatian Television and was operating without a license for 2 years 
before the IMC's decision.
    Radio broadcasting in the Bosniak-majority areas of the 
Federation--particularly in Sarajevo, Zenica, and Tuzla--is diverse. 
Opposition viewpoints are reflected in the news programs of independent 
broadcasters. Independent or opposition radio stations broadcast in the 
RS--particularly in Banja Luka and Trebinje. Nezavisni Radio, Nezavisna 
Televizija, and Radio Pegas report a wide variety of political 
opinions. Local radio stations broadcast in Croat-majority areas, but 
they are usually highly nationalistic. Local Croat authorities do not 
tolerate opposition viewpoints. Independent Studio 88 was launched in 
Mostar in July. The station will cover both sides of the ethnic divide, 
the first multi-ethnic broadcaster in Herzegovina.
    After the announcement of the Brcko decision in March, angry crowds 
destroyed the offices of independent Radio Osvit.
    In October the IMC ordered a 90-day closure of a Bosnian Croat 
radio station in Mostar after it broadcast incendiary calls for the 
city's Croat residents to take to the streets protesting SFOR raids on 
municipal offices which were undermining the Dayton Accords. As a 
result, some 200 students threw rocks and bottles at SFOR troops (see 
Section 1.c.).
    While some foreign journalists who represent recognized media were 
able to travel freely to most areas of the country, others encountered 
difficulties. Local police and security officials in the RS and west 
Mostar harassed local and foreign journalists associated with 
opposition parties or minority ethnic groups.
    Academic freedom was constrained. In the Federation, Serbs and 
Croats complained that SDA party members receive special treatment in 
appointments and promotions at the University of Sarajevo. The 
University of Banja Luka limits its appointments to Serbs. All 
institutions suffer from a lack of resources and staff, as well as the 
legacy of the Communist period. The University of Mostar remains 
divided into eastern and western parts, reflecting the continued ethnic 
divide in the city. However, the East Mostar University, despite 
persisting reports of ethnic discrimination, has significant ethnic 
diversity in its student body and staff. The staff and student body of 
West Mostar University is much more homogenous, reflecting, as least in 
part, the desire of most Croats to work and study in a Croat-dominated 
area.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The Constitution 
provides for freedom of peaceful assembly; however, authorities imposed 
some limits on this right in practice. Opposition political parties 
enjoyed greater latitude in staging rallies and campaigning than they 
had during the 1996 national elections. However, there were still 
instances in which incumbents attempted to use their positions to 
hinder the activities of opposition parties.
    The Constitution provides for freedom of association, and a wide 
range of social, cultural, and political organizations functioned 
without interference; however, authorities imposed some limits on this 
right and indirect pressure constrained the activities of some groups. 
Although political party membership was not forced, many viewed 
membership in the leading party of any given area as the surest way for 
residents to obtain, regain, or keep housing and jobs in the state-
owned sector of the economy.
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution provides for freedom of 
religion, including private and public worship, and in general, 
individuals enjoyed this right in their religious majority areas. 
However, the efforts of individuals to worship in areas in which they 
are an ethnic/religious minority were restricted, sometimes by societal 
violence. Some incidents resulted in damage to religious edifices and 
cemeteries.
    In July the Human Rights Chamber determined that the Government of 
the RS had denied the right of the Muslim community to freedom of 
religion by refusing to allow the reconstruction of mosques destroyed 
in the war. The Chamber specifically established that the Muslim 
community had property rights to 15 sites and that the community had 
the right to enclose the properties. According to the decision, the 
Government of the RS may not allow other construction on these sites 
and must issue any construction permits necessary to rebuild mosques on 
seven of the sites (see Section 4). However, there were reports that 
local authorities in the RS were obstructing attempts to rebuild 
mosques, particularly the Ferhadija Central Mosque in Banja Luka.
    In a positive development, Muslims were able to celebrate Bajram, 
an important religious holiday, on January 19 in the mosque in Prozor-
Rama for the first time since the war. About 200 Muslims attended the 
service without incident. The local Bosnian Croat police force provided 
security.
    Catholic priests are able to hold Mass in the RS without incident. 
In the case of a large Mass, Catholic Church officials work with RS 
local officials to obtain necessary permits.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--The Constitution provides for ``the 
right to liberty of movement and residence'' and freedom of movement, 
including across the IEBL, continued to improve; however, some limits 
remained in practice. The IPTF and SFOR completed the dismantling of 
all permanent police checkpoints, greatly enhancing freedom of 
movement. However, for most minorities movement across the IEBL and 
into areas dominated by other ethnic groups remained somewhat limited 
and cautious in practice. The eastern RS remained under hard-line 
control and unwelcoming to a minority presence.
    Freedom of movement improved significantly with the introduction of 
universal license plates in 1998. The new plates do not identify the 
vehicles as being registered in predominantly Bosniak, Bosnian Serb, or 
Bosnian Croat areas. The U.N. Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina 
(UNMIBH) reported that in the first week after the inauguration of the 
new plates, about 4,000 vehicles crossed the IEBL.
    Statistics on refugee returns remained difficult to obtain. Between 
the end of the war and the end of the year, 350,000 persons who left 
the country had returned. More than 160,000 returned from Germany 
alone, due to the German Government's policy of actively pressuring 
refugees to return to Bosnia. Most of those returning from Europe were 
unable to return to their prewar homes. Efforts by hard-line Croats to 
resettle returning refugees to consolidate the results of ethnic 
cleansing have ceased for the most part. Although the return figures 
are much less exact for those returning from other places within the 
country, the UNHCR estimated that approximately 296,000 IDP's returned 
to their prewar homes between the end of the war and the end of the 
year. While different refugee organizations provide different estimates 
on the numbers of minority returns, they all agree that the rate of 
minority returns in 1999 was probably twice that of 1998.
    The UNHCR ``open cities'' initiative, begun in 1997, linked 
economic assistance to cooperation on minority return (positive 
conditionality) and helped the UNHCR's effort to break down the 
influence of ethnic separatists.
    Several factors prevented an even larger number of returns, 
including the hard-line obstruction of implementation of property 
legislation, political pressure to remain displaced in order to 
increase ethnic homogeneity of the population in a specific area, the 
lack of an ethnically neutral curriculum in public schools, and 
insecurity caused by the NATO campaign in Kosovo (see Section 5).
    The February 1998 Sarajevo Declaration was intended to showcase 
Sarajevo as a model city in terms of tolerance. The declaration was to 
provide for improvements in areas that hindered return: Legislation, 
housing, security and public order, employment, and education, with a 
goal of 20,000 minority returns for the canton during 1998. The level 
of returns so far has been disappointing. By year's end, the UNHCR 
announced that nearly 20,000 minority returns had occurred in Sarajevo 
canton after nearly 2 years. Although the rate of evictions in Sarajevo 
was increasing at year's end, the processing of property claims and 
evictions was still very slow.
    During 1998 the Federation army unlawfully took control of 4,000 
former Yugoslav military (JNA) apartments that had been abandoned and 
repaired by a Dutch company. Prewar residents continue to wait to 
return to these, while authorities encourage occupants to start the 
purchasing process. After inadequate action by local authorities, 
several of these cases were brought before the Human Rights Chamber. No 
returns have taken place to former JNA apartments. The military has 
attempted to evict legal occupants. In some cases the military 
prevented soldiers from being evicted, at times using force, and 
stopped prewar owners from reoccupying their apartments.
    The continued influence of ethnic separatists in positions of 
authority also hindered minority returns. Much of Croat-controlled 
Herzegovina and the eastern RS remained resistant to minority returns. 
Displaced persons living in those areas, even those who privately 
indicated interest in returning to their prewar homes, frequently were 
pressured to remain displaced, while those who wished to return were 
discouraged, often through the use of violence (see Sections 1.a. and 
1.c.). The increased number of ethnically integrated police forces 
helped improve the climate for return, but security in general remained 
inadequate in many areas.
    In May a group of Serbs in Kotor Varos blocked the road to prevent 
Bosniaks from returning to the town. Earlier the municipal assembly 
voted unanimously against the return of Bosniaks.
    The continued depressed state of the economy throughout the country 
and the consequent lack of employment opportunities for returnees 
remained a serious obstacle to a significant number of returns. As a 
result, most minority returnees were elderly. This presented a new 
burden for receiving municipalities. Younger minority group members, 
who depend on adequate wages from employment to support families, 
generally remained displaced, especially in cases where they had 
managed over the past 6 years to find work.
    On April 14, the OHR cancelled the permanent occupancy rights of 
individuals who acquired apartments during and immediately following 
the war in both entities. These individuals can remain temporary 
occupants of their apartments only until the prewar occupant applies to 
return to that apartment. Previously, permanent occupancy rights 
blocked effectively the return of minorities who left during or 
immediately after the war, since they were granted to persons who 
occupied these ``abandoned'' residences.
    In June the mayor of Berkovici in the RS unsuccessfully attempted 
to impede the return of 60 Bosniaks by declaring their return illegal. 
Local government officials continue to obstruct minority returns to 
Drvar. On July 3, the canton 10 interior minister instructed the local 
police to expel all returnees who failed to change their registration 
from their previous temporary residence to Drvar and failed to obtain 
identification cards within 10 days. The action was an attempt to 
harass returnees since authorities also hindered returnees' attempts to 
register. Residents without identification cards are not entitled to 
social benefits and their freedom of movement can be restricted. 
Expulsion also is illegal; the maximum legal penalty for failure to get 
an identification card is a fine. The OHR recommended that Serb returns 
to Drvar be slowed temporarily as a result of this incident.
    Government leaders in both the RS and the Federation often have 
used a variety of tactics, including public statements, to inhibit the 
return of IDP's (see Section 1.c.).
    Officially, the Government grants asylum and refugee status in 
accordance with international standards. At times the Government 
cooperated with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in 
assisting refugees. In October 1998, the Bosnian Council of Ministers 
issued an instruction on temporary admission of FRY refugees from the 
province of Kosovo. This entitled needy refugees from these areas to 
free accommodation, food, primary medical care, and education. In May 
after the NATO campaign began against the FRY, the Council of Ministers 
extended these protections to refugees arriving from all parts of the 
FRY.
    Some 13,000 Kosovar Albanians entered the country in the 12 months 
before the NATO air campaign began on March 24. After March 24, 8,700 
additional Kosovar Albanians entered the country, along with 25,000 
Muslims from the Sandzak region of Serbia. Additionally, about 35,000 
other refugees from Serbia and the FRY entered the country after March, 
of whom the vast majority were Serbs formerly displaced from Croatia 
and Bosnia during the 1991-95 war. As of October 1, roughly 9,000 
Kosovar Albanians, 11,000 Sandzakis, and 22,000 of these Serbs were 
estimated to remain in the country as refugees. The Kosovar Albanians 
and the Sandzakis are in the Federation and the Serbs are in the RS. 
Nearly all are in private accommodations.
    UNHCR and OSCE monitors heard reports from refugees of numerous 
human rights violations perpetrated by RS police. These violations 
included harassment, beatings, and extortion of money (see Section 
1.c.). Refugees also reported incidents of RS police confiscating and 
destroying refugees' documents. There were no reports of the forced 
return of persons to a place where they feared persecution.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to 
        Change Their Government
    Even though a permanent election law is not yet in place, the 
Dayton Accords commit the parties to ``ensure that conditions exist for 
the organization of free and fair elections, in particular a 
politically neutral environment'' and to ensure the right to ``vote in 
secret without fear or intimidation.'' These rights were respected in 
the national and entity elections in 1998, which were the most fair and 
pluralistic since the Dayton Accords were signed. Voter turnout was 
over 70 percent with over 83 political parties, independent candidates, 
coalitions, and alliances competing for office. The OSCE released a 
draft of the election law in December that would transfer 
responsibilities for running elections to the Government.
    However, continued party control of the media and security 
apparatus precluded full citizen participation without intimidation, 
especially in Bosnian Croat areas and parts of the RS. To varying 
degrees, all major parties seek to exclude other parties in areas they 
control. This was especially true in areas controlled by the SDS or the 
HDZ. However, observers believe that recent changes to the media law in 
the RS and the new media law in the Federation may improve the 
situation somewhat (see Section 2.a.).
    The 1998 elections were relatively free and fair, but resulted in 
the election of a hard-line SRS President, Nikola Poplasen. Poplasen 
refused to nominate a candidate for prime minister with sufficient 
support in the RS Assembly to form a government, including the 
candidate with the most support, current Prime Minister Milorad Dodik. 
This episode eventually sparked a confrontation with the High 
Representative in which Poplasen was removed from office on March 5. In 
announcing the dismissal, then High Representative Carlos Westendorp 
said that Poplasen had ``acted against democratic principles and abused 
the authority of the Office of President by refusing to consult the 
parties and coalitions represented by the National Assembly in order to 
nominate the prime minister.'' Immediately after Poplasen's dismissal, 
Vice President Sarovic refused to take his place because Sarovic did 
not accept the legitimacy of the High Representative's decision. At 
year's end, Sarovic was attempting to assume the powers of the 
Presidency, but was told by the High Representative that this would not 
be permitted.
    Implementation of the 1998 elections at the national and entity 
levels was far less difficult than implementation of municipal election 
results. The 1997 municipal election results were implemented in June 
when the Srebrenica municipal assembly met and approved a government. 
The government was certified by the OSCE.
    Also on March 5, but unrelated to Poplasen's dismissal, Roberts B. 
Owen, arbitrator for the Brcko Arbitral Tribunal, announced a final 
award, whereby the entire prewar Brcko municipality was to become a 
``self-governing neutral district,'' which would belong to both 
entities. The award delegates to the district's internationally 
appointed supervisor the responsibility for deciding when the district 
would begin to govern itself under a new district statute. Until then 
the supervisor retained ultimate authority over the district. The final 
disposition of this region was a highly sensitive issue, since the 
region of Brcko connects the eastern and western sections of the RS. A 
democratically-elected, multiethnic local government is to administer 
the district under the direct oversight of the Brcko supervisor. Until 
new laws are issued or existing laws adapted, the supervisor retains 
discretion as to which laws, Federation or RS, are to apply in Brcko. A 
new district statute was issued by the supervisor on December 7, and a 
district-wide multiethnic police force was to be established officially 
in January 2000. Demilitarization of the Brcko district was underway 
and scheduled to be completed by the end of February 2000. On August 
18, the Brcko Tribunal issued an annex to the final award, clarifying 
implementation of the award. In particular, it established the 
citizenship status of district residents and confirmed the right of 
transit by military forces of both entities. It also directed the 
supervisor to address such issues as taxation, law enforcement, 
district management, and composition of the district assembly.
    Women generally were underrepresented in government and politics, 
although a few women, such as the former President of the RS, have 
occupied prominent positions. In the three legislatures, women were 
underrepresented seriously. To address this concern, the OSCE election 
rules required parties to include no fewer than 3 members of each 
gender among the top 10 names on their candidate lists. In the state-
level House of Representatives (lower house), 12 of 42 deputies are 
women. There are no women in the state-level House of Peoples (upper 
house), whose representatives are appointed by the entity legislatures. 
In the Federation legislature, 21 of 140 deputies in the House of 
Representatives are women, and 7 of 72 deputies in the House of Peoples 
are women. In the RS unicameral legislature, 18 of 83 deputies are 
women.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    The authorities generally permitted outside investigations of 
alleged human rights violations. International and local NGO's involved 
in human rights appear to operate somewhat freely. The OHR reports that 
foreign government and NGO human rights monitors were able to travel 
without restriction in all areas of the country. International 
community representatives were given widespread and for the most part 
unhindered access to detention facilities and prisoners in the RS as 
well as in the Federation.
    While monitors enjoyed relative freedom to investigate human rights 
abuses, they were rarely successful in persuading the authorities in 
all regions to respond to their recommendations. Monitors' 
interventions often met with delays or outright refusal.
    The caseload of the Human Rights Chamber and the Office of Human 
Rights Ombudsperson, two institutions created under Annex 6 of the 
Dayton Accords, expanded during the year. Decisions of the Chamber are 
final and cannot be appealed to the Constitutional Court. During the 
year, the Chamber's caseload increased to 3,449 registered cases; and 
the Chamber issued 294 final case decisions. While governmental 
cooperation with the Chamber is still weak, there was noticeable 
improvement during the year. Both Federation and RS officials complied 
with several decisions, including reinstating returning residents to 
Yugoslav National Army apartments (JNA) and payment of compensation 
awards. These successes were the result of OHR cooperation in 
monitoring authorities' responses and coordinating intervention in 
cases in which the authorities failed to meet their obligations to 
cooperate.
    Cooperation with the ICTY in The Hague is a key factor in the 
implementation of the Dayton Accords and the establishment of respect 
for human rights. In 1998 RS Prime Minister Dodik altered the RS policy 
of defiance of the Tribunal and the Dayton Accords by instructing his 
officials to cooperate with the ICTY. He also offered office space in 
Banja Luka to the ICTY. His actions helped to reduce the behind-the-
scenes political influence of former wartime RS President Radovan 
Karadzic and his SDS allies. During the year, RS authorities 
facilitated the ICTY's investigation in Srebrenica. However, a majority 
of the 31 ICTY public indictees who remain at large reportedly live in 
the RS, some allegedly in Prijedor and Foca. RS authorities made no 
effort to arrest these indictees.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language, or Social Status
    The parties agreed in the Dayton Accords to reject discrimination 
on such grounds as sex, race, color, language, religion, political or 
other opinion, national or social origin, or association with a 
national minority. Nevertheless, there were many cases of 
discrimination.
    Women.--Accurate statistics on violence against women, including 
spousal abuse and rape, are not available. Throughout the country, rape 
and violent abuse are considered criminal offenses. However, domestic 
violence usually was not reported to the authorities, and a sense of 
shame reportedly prevents some victims of rape from coming forward to 
complain to authorities. There are laws that prohibit rape in both the 
Federation and the RS. Spousal rape and spousal abuse are also illegal 
in the Federation. There are no available estimates of the extent of 
violence against women.
    Trafficking in women from the former Soviet Union for purposes of 
forced prostitution is a problem (see Section 6.f.).
    It is illegal to run a brothel in Bosnia, but local police have 
focused primarily on women engaged in prostitution rather than 
procurers or those managing the brothels. As a result, women who have 
been coerced or forced into prostitution have little recourse. 
Authorities generally treat prostitution as a minor misdemeanor 
regarding the woman involved, but employers and customers do not face 
charges. Women convicted of prostitution can be fined, imprisoned for 
60 days, or deported. It is estimated that there are some 700 brothels 
in the RS and some 300 in the Federation, where some 15,000 prostitutes 
work. Police officials in Brcko have been removed from office for 
involvement in prostitution.
    There is little legal or social discrimination against women, and 
women hold a few of the most responsible positions in society, serving 
as judges, doctors, and professors. However, a male-dominated society 
prevails in both entities, particularly in rural areas, with few women 
in positions of real economic power or political power.
    Women have been discriminated against in the workplace in favor of 
demobilized soldiers. Anecdotal evidence indicates that women and men 
receive equal pay at socially owned enterprises but not necessarily at 
private businesses. Women are entitled to 12 months' maternity leave 
and to work no more than 4 hours per day until a child is 3 years old. 
However, women in all parts of the country encounter problems with 
regard to the nonpayment of maternity leave allowances and the 
unwarranted dismissal of pregnant women and new mothers. The 
International Human Rights Law Group and local NGO's organized seminars 
and information campaigns to raise awareness of the issue, and the 
Tuzla cantonal assembly passed a resolution to pay women all maternity 
leave allowance debts since 1998. A woman with underage children cannot 
be forced to do shift work.
    Children.--The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child is 
incorporated by reference in the Dayton Accords and has the effect of 
law in both entities. The end of the fighting brought a major 
improvement in the human rights of children. During the war nearly 
17,000 children were killed, 35,000 wounded, and over 1,800 permanently 
disabled.
    Children suffer from an extreme paucity of social services. 
Disabled children lack sufficient care and educational opportunities. 
Education is compulsory through the age of 15 in both the Federation 
and the RS. The most serious issue is the ethnic division of the 
education system. Students in minority areas frequently face a hostile 
environment in schools that do not provide an ethnically neutral 
setting. At times minority children are barred from attending school at 
all. Local education officials excuse these abuses by claiming that 
minority children should have their own schools and curricula. 
Obstruction by politicians and government officials has slowed 
international efforts to remove discriminatory material from textbooks 
and enact other needed reforms.
    In February the International Human Rights Law Group issued a 
report finding that segregation and discrimination were entrenched in 
Bosnian schools, particularly in religious education. For example, in 
Sarajevo only Muslim religion classes were offered in public schools, 
which denied children of other faiths the practical opportunity to 
study their own religious traditions in school. Since the beginning of 
the school year, ethnic divisions in schools have become more apparent. 
In an effort to block returns to the area, municipal officials in 
Capljina, Stolac, and Bugojno refused to allocate space in public 
schools to allow minority children to be taught under their own 
curriculum, in direct defiance of a directive of the High 
Representative. There is concern among the international community that 
this situation may further harden existing prejudices and ethnic 
hatreds.
    There was no societal pattern of abuse against children. 
Nonetheless, they continue to suffer disproportionately from the 
societal stress of the postwar era. Trafficking in girls for the 
purpose of forced prostitution is a problem (see Section 6.f.).
    People With Disabilities.--The Federation Government is required by 
law to assist disabled persons to find employment and to protect them 
against discrimination. In the RS discrimination against the disabled 
also is prohibited by law. Currently there are few jobs available, and 
thousands of newly disabled victims entered the job market after the 
war. The Government has limited resources to address the special needs 
of the disabled. There are no legal provisions mandating that buildings 
be made accessible to the physically disabled. There are a number of 
international NGO's that assist the disabled in the country.
    Religious Minorities.--Religion and ethnicity are identified 
closely in the country. The Interreligion Council, established in 1997 
and composed of the main leaders of the country's four major religious 
communities--Muslim, Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Jewish--
continued its efforts to promote national reconciliation. The OSCE and 
the OHR facilitated many interfaith meetings at the local level as 
well.
    However, throughout the country, religious minorities felt pressure 
and were intimidated by the ethnic/religious majority.
    Catholic priests have frequently been able to hold Mass in the RS 
without incident. In the case of a large Mass, Catholic officials work 
with RS local officials to obtain necessary permits. On December 13, a 
group of young men attacked a group of Catholic priests led by 
Archbishop Vinko Cardinal Pulic on their way to celebrate Mass in 
Derventa. One member of Pulic's party was injured, but the service took 
place as planned. There was no known government involvement in this 
attack. A demonstration delaying Pulic's departure from the same church 
occurred in 1998.
    None of the mosques in the RS destroyed during the war have been 
rebuilt or repaired, despite requests from the Muslim community for 
reconstruction (see Section 2.c.). Religious minorities throughout the 
country at times faced interference from the authorities in their right 
to worship freely. However, Catholic priests reported that they were 
able now to conduct masses in the RS with little or no problems.
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities.--Claimed ``ethnic differences'' 
were used to justify the war and remain a powerful political force in 
the country. Although some politicians still support the concepts of a 
``Greater Serbia'' and a ``Greater Croatia,'' mixed communities exist 
peacefully in a growing number of areas, including Sarajevo and Tuzla. 
The SDS, HDZ, and to a lesser extent the primarily Bosniak SDA, sought 
to manipulate the movement of persons and the access to housing and 
social services that they control to ensure that the ethnic groups with 
which they are associated consolidate their position in their 
respective geographic regions. Some hard-line local authorities in the 
eastern RS sought to keep information regarding the right to return and 
conditions in return sites from reaching displaced persons in their 
areas, so as to dissuade them from attempting to return to their former 
homes.
    In December 1998, the RS passed new property legislation 
establishing a claims process at the municipal level. The law went into 
effect when it was published in the official gazette on February 10. On 
April 13, the High Representative imposed several amendments and 
indicated that more were needed to make the law effective. The High 
Representative also imposed a 6-month extension of the June 15 deadline 
to file claims on socially-owned apartments, and on December 10 issued 
a further extension of 4 months. The new deadline was set for April 19, 
2000. In addition, the OHR issued on October 27 a series of decrees 
amending a number of property laws in both entities to provide all 
citizens just and equal protection of their property rights, which is 
considered essential in order for IDP's to return home.
    Despite hopeful signs in some areas, harassment and discrimination 
against minorities continue throughout the country, often centering on 
property disputes. These problems include desecration of graves, damage 
to houses of worship, throwing explosive devices into residential 
areas, harassment, dismissal from work, threats, assaults, and, in some 
cases, killings (see Sections 1.a. and 1.c.).
    According to the 1997 report of the Federation Human Rights 
Ombudsman, ``Equality before the law is not observed in the everyday 
practice of state authorities that decide on the rights and obligations 
of the citizens.''
    Bosnian Serb and Croat politicians seek to increase the ethnic 
homogeneity of the population in areas they control by discouraging 
IDP's of their own ethnicity from returning to their prewar homes if 
they would be in the minority there. Hard-liners also encourage members 
of their groups currently living in areas where they are minorities to 
move to areas where their ethnic group is the majority. For example, 
hard-line Bosnian Croats have discouraged Croat returns to central 
Bosnia and have actively recruited Croats still living there to 
resettle in Herzegovina. This effort sparked an open dispute among 
Bosnian Croats, and the Catholic Bishop of Banja Luka publicly 
criticized the practice.
    Although the new RS Government is on record as supporting the right 
to return, it continues to obstruct returns at all levels. Bosniak 
authorities appear tacitly to support some Bosniak resettlement 
efforts, including resettlement of returnees, in ``strategic'' areas of 
the Federation where Bosniaks are in the minority.
    In some cases, opponents of refugee returns employed violence, 
including sporadic house burnings, and orchestrated demonstrations in 
an effort to intimidate returnees. While incidents of violence have 
decreased due to improved security and freedom of movement, other forms 
of discrimination have not. In particular, discrimination in employment 
and education are now key obstacles to sustainable returns. Widespread 
firing of ethnic minorities during and after the war has not been 
reversed in many cases. Recently there have been more cases of 
employment discrimination based on political affiliation.
    Throughout the country, membership in the political party 
affiliated with one's ethnic group was considered the surest way to 
obtain, retain, or regain employment, especially in the management of 
socially owned enterprises. Membership was also influential in 
obtaining or keeping housing (see Section 2.b.).
Section 6. Worker Rights
    a. The Right of Association.--The Federation and RS Constitutions 
provide for the right of workers to form and join labor unions. Both 
the Federation and the RS have a union organization. There are informal 
links between the two unions, and there have been some very preliminary 
and initial steps towards merging the two under one banner. Workers in 
the RS or the Federation are not prohibited from joining the union in 
the entity where they are a minority. However, the membership in the RS 
is overwhelmingly Serb and the membership in the Federation is 
overwhelmingly Bosniak. Bosnian Croats have informal labor 
organizations in areas where they are the dominant ethnic group, but 
generally are represented by the federation union.
    Unions have the right to strike, but there were few strikes during 
the year because of the economic devastation and joblessness caused by 
the war throughout much of the Federation. However, on October 25, some 
8,000 demonstrators attended a labor rally in Sarajevo to protest 
nonpayment of salaries and pensions in addition to other social issues. 
Some of the protest's organizers claimed that government officials and 
managers of state firms threatened workers with the loss of their jobs 
if they attended the rally.
    Unions may affiliate internationally.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--There was 
little collective bargaining in labor-management negotiations during 
the year. In both the RS and the Federation workers have the right to 
collective bargaining, and the law prohibits antiunion discrimination.
    There were no export processing zones.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--The Constitution 
prohibits servitude or forced labor, including that performed by 
children; however, women and girls were trafficked for the purpose of 
forced prostitution (see Section 6.f.). Despite rumors that work camps 
exist in isolated areas, investigations have not turned up any 
corroborating evidence.
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--The minimum age for employment of children in the 
Federation and in the RS was 16 years. Children sometimes assisted 
their families with farm work and odd jobs. Children are covered under 
the Constitution's prohibition of servitude or forced labor, and such 
practices are not known to occur (see Section 6.c.).
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--The minimum monthly wage in the 
Federation was $46 (80 KM). In the RS, the monthly minimum wage was $34 
(60 KM). The minimum wages were insufficient to provide for a decent 
standard of living for a worker and family. Many workers still had 
claims outstanding for salaries earned during the war but were being 
paid in full only for current work. Similarly, many pensioners had 
outstanding claims.
    There are no legal limits on the number of hours in the workweek. 
Overtime pay is not required by law.
    In March the RS Government began paying most government salaries 
and pensions in convertible marks (KM). However, private employers 
continue to pay salaries in Yugoslav dinars. This allows employers to 
purchase dinars at the black market rate but pay employees at the much 
lower official rate, usually pocketing the difference. As a result, 
some workers in the RS suffer a significant reduction in their 
purchasing power.
    Due to the high level of taxes levied on employers, many persons 
are forced to work outside the government benefits and tax system. The 
Government levies taxes equaling up to 80 percent of an employee's 
salary to pay for health and pension benefits. Unfortunately many 
employees do not receive these benefits even if their employers do 
contribute to their government plans.
    Occupational safety and health regulations generally were ignored 
because of the demands and constraints imposed by an economy devastated 
by war. Neither entity has completed passage of new laws to enforce 
international worker rights standards.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--There are no laws that specifically 
prohibit trafficking in persons, and trafficking in women from the 
former Soviet Union for the purpose of forced prostitution is a serious 
problem. The country is an origin, transit, and destination point for 
women and girls trafficked for the purpose of forced prostitution. A 
significant number of women are manipulated or coerced into situations 
in which they work in brothels in conditions close to slavery. The 
country is extremely vulnerable to trafficking in persons, since it has 
weak laws, border controls are almost nonexistant, and the police are 
easily bribed. As many as 9,000 trafficked women may be working in the 
country.
    It is illegal to run a brothel, but local police have focused 
primarily on women engaged in prostitution rather than procurers or 
those managing the brothels. As a result, women who have been coerced 
or forced into prostitution have little recourse. Authorities generally 
treat prostitution as a minor misdemeanor against the woman involved, 
but employers and customers do not face charges. Women convicted of 
prostitution can be fined, imprisoned for 60 days, or deported. In the 
fall, the OHR issued directives governing police raids on brothels to 
ensure that trafficked women found were provided assistance. The 
country's deportation laws permit local police to release trafficked 
individuals in neighboring jurisdictions or across the border in 
Croatia. Police in Bihac, Gradacac, and Tuzla have broken up 
trafficking rings in recent years and deported the women. In one case 
of deportation, after a cantonal court in Zenica in the Federation 
ordered the removal of six prostitutes from the canton, local police 
took them to Doboj in the RS. Reportedly they all later appeared for 
sale at the Arizona Market in Ravne Brcko. It is estimated that there 
are some 700 brothels in the RS and some 300 in the Federation, where 
some 15,000 prostitutes work. Brothel operators reportedly earn $50 
(100 DM) per hour per woman; while in some cases women reportedly 
receive as little as $13 (25 DM) per month for personal expenses and 
are forced to find other money (often through begging) for essentials, 
including condoms. Other prostitutes reportedly earn $100 (200 DM) per 
month. Police throughout the Federation have arrested and deported 
Russian and Ukrainian women working as prostitutes. Organized crime 
elements control the trafficking business. Police officials in Brcko 
have been removed from office for involvement in prostitution, and 
there are allegations that police officers in other cities also may be 
involved.
    Women are trafficked to the country from other East European 
countries and countries of the former Soviet Union, including the 
countries of Central Asia. The majority of trafficked women come from 
Ukraine, but also from Romania, Moldova, Russia, Belarus, and 
Kazakhstan. The main route into the country for trafficked women was 
from the FRY. Some are brought in by traffickers specifically to work 
in the country's brothels. Others for a variety of reasons are stranded 
or abandoned by traffickers en route to other countries. Women 
trafficked to the country usually are promised jobs as secretaries, 
waitresses, or dancers in Western countries and wages of $1,500 (3,000 
DM) per month. Some women often are trafficked to Croatia to work as 
prostitutes there or then trafficked to other countries. Others are 
sold to middlemen or to brothel operators in the country, often at the 
Arizona Market in Ravne Brcko. The price is usually $1,500 (3,000 DM) 
per woman, and women often are expected to repay their ``owners'' this 
amount out of their ``share'' of their earnings.
    The Government has done little to combat the problem of 
trafficking. However, various international organizations and NGO's, 
both local and foreign, are addressing the issue. The Swedish NGO 
Kvinna Till Kvinna provides financial assistance to a shelter that 
houses trafficked women while they await return to their countries of 
origin. During the year, 50 trafficked women were repatriated from the 
country with NGO assistance.
    The women received airline tickets home and $150 to assist them 
with reintegration into their home country. The returnees also are 
urged to contact the local Organization for International Migration 
offices in their home country for follow-up counseling. The IPTF works 
with local police forces to free trafficked persons and to crack down 
on traffickers. There were two arrests of traffickers to date, in 
Bijeljina and Brcko.
                                 ______
                                 

                                BULGARIA

    Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic ruled by a democratically 
elected government. President Petar Stoyanov of the Union of Democratic 
Forces (UDF) began a 5-year term of office in January 1997 following 
his election in late 1996. UDF leader Ivan Kostov currently serves as 
Prime Minister. The judiciary is independent but suffers from 
corruption and continues to struggle with structural and staffing 
problems.
    Most internal security services are the responsibility of the 
Ministry of the Interior, including the Central Service for Combating 
Organized Crime, the National Security Service (civilian intelligence), 
internal security troops, border guards, and special forces. Although 
government control over the police is improving, it still is not 
sufficient to ensure full accountability. The Special Investigative 
Service (SIS), reduced in size by a recent reorganization, is a 
judicial branch agency and therefore not under direct government 
control. Some members of the police committed serious human rights 
abuses.
    The post-Communist transition economy continued to be heavily 
dependent on state enterprises, many of them unprofitable, although the 
growing private sector now accounts for over 60 percent of economic 
activity. Most persons are employed in the industrial and service 
sectors; key industries include food processing, chemical and oil 
processing, metallurgy, and energy. Principal exports are agricultural 
products, cigarettes and tobacco, chemicals, and metal products. 
Following a severe financial, economic, and political crisis in 1996 
and early 1997, a reformist government introduced a successful 
macroeconomic stabilization program. The program quickly stabilized the 
economy and cut the triple digit inflation of 1996-97 to less than 1 
percent in 1998. Inflation grew to 6.2 percent in 1999. The economy 
grew by 3.5 percent in 1998 and by 2.5 percent in 1999. The Government 
has placed a great deal of emphasis on attracting foreign investment 
and has promised far-reaching structural reforms, although the 
privatization process has not moved forward as quickly as hoped. The 
annual per capita gross domestic product of $1,500 provides a 
relatively low standard of living.
    The Government generally respected the human rights of its 
citizens; however, problems remained in some areas, while there were 
improvements in a few others. Police used questionable lethal force 
against five suspects. Security forces beat suspects and inmates and 
often arbitrarily arrested and detained persons. Reforms designed to 
increase accountability have improved the Government's control over the 
security forces; however, its control remains incomplete. Problems of 
accountability persist and inhibit government attempts to end police 
abuses. Conditions in some prisons were harsh, and pretrial detention 
often is prolonged, although this situation improved somewhat during 
the year. The judiciary is underpaid, understaffed, and has a heavy 
case backlog; corruption is a serious problem. The Government infringed 
on citizens' privacy rights. There were reports of police abuse of 
journalists. Constitutional restrictions on political parties formed on 
ethnic, racial, or religious lines effectively limit participation for 
some groups. Police, local government authorities, and private citizens 
continued to obstruct the activities of some nontraditional religious 
groups, although there was some improvement in their treatment by 
central government authorities. Violence and discrimination against 
women remained serious problems. Discrimination against the disabled 
and religious minorities is a problem. Discrimination and societal 
violence against Roma were serious problems, resulting in two deaths. 
Because of a lack of funds, the social service system did not assist 
homeless and other vulnerable children adequately, notably Romani 
children. Security forces harassed, physically abused, and arbitrarily 
arrested and detained Romani street children. Child labor was a 
problem. Trafficking in women and girls is a serious problem.
                        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 killings; however, in five cases, police officers 
used questionable lethal force against citizens, one of whom was a 
member of the Romani minority. There was one report of a death in 
custody.
    The Ministry of Interior Act regarding the use of firearms by law 
enforcement officials permits them to use firearms to apprehend persons 
committing crimes or who have committed crimes, even if the crimes are 
only minor. Law enforcement officers also may use firearms to stop the 
escape of a person who has been arrested for any crime.
    On January 29, Tencho Vasev was shot and killed by border police 
near Novo Selo while trying to cross the Bulgarian-Greek border 
illegally. An investigation into the case was completed on May 28. On 
June 14, the Military Prosecutor's office prepared an indictment 
against the officer responsible for the shooting. The case was ongoing 
at year's end.
    On May 13, Nikolai Filipov was shot and killed by police officers 
during an attempted car theft near Pravets. Filipov died from a gunshot 
wound to the head. The use of lethal force in this instance was ruled 
legal self defense by the Military Prosecutor's office after an 
investigation.
    On June 6, a 28-year-old criminal suspect, Gancho Vuchkov, was shot 
and killed while trying to escape police in Sofia. Police were carrying 
out a warrant for Vuchkov's arrest in connection with a series of car 
thefts. Following a car chase and an exchange of gunfire with police, 
Vuchkov was shot in the temple. A relative of Vuchkov who reportedly 
arrived on the scene soon after the shooting and saw the body, alleges 
that Vuchkov was killed after police apprehended him and not while in 
pursuit. The case was under investigation at year's end.
    On June 14, Oleg Georgiev was shot and killed by border police 
during an attempt to cross the border near the town of Kulata in the 
southwest.
    On September 21, Kostadin Sherbetov was found dead in his cell in a 
district police station in Sofia. Earlier that day, guards from a 
private security firm that protects schools in Sofia detained Sherbetov 
on suspicion of pedophilia and turned him over to police. An ambulance 
was called to the police station, and doctors established that 
Sherbetov had died. According to his forensic medical certificate, he 
suffered from several broken ribs and numerous bruises. The chief 
secretary of the Ministry of Interior admitted that Sherbetov was a 
victim of violence but contended that the policemen and guards deny any 
involvement in the abuse. The Military Prosecutor's Office launched a 
preliminary investigation into four police officers.
    The investigation into the 1998 shooting death case of Tsvetan 
Kovatchev was reopened in June after legal wrangling resulted in a 
repeal of the Military Prosecution's initial ruling in January that the 
use of force was justified.
    In July charges were brought against the police officer involved in 
the 1998 fatal shooting of Yordan Yankov. The police officer was 
sentenced to a term of 15 years in prison and fined approximately 
$6,000 (Lev 11,000) to be paid to Yankov's family. An appeal to reduce 
the sentence is likely.
    The 1998 case of Staniela Bugova was on appeal following sentencing 
in the fall of the police officer involved in the shooting to 2\1/2\ 
years. The sentence was upheld in one appeal; this was the last 
opportunity for appeal in the case.
    There were no further developments in the 1997 beating death case 
of Mincho Simeonov Surtmachev. The case was still under appeal at 
year's end. Pending appeal, the two police officers involved remain in 
custody serving sentences of 7 years and 4 years. The case also 
resulted in the firing of the chief of the Dobrech police precinct.
    Two 1997 cases were dismissed. The Military Prosecutor's office 
dismissed the Georgi Biandov case in 1998 and ruled that police acted 
within their authority. The 1997 death of Elin Karamanov also was 
dismissed by the Military Prosecutor's office in June 1997, and the 
dismissal was confirmed on review by the Chief Military Prosecutor in 
September 1997 on the grounds that the use of lethal force was legal.
    The Military Prosecutor's office sentenced in February 1998 the 
police officer involved in the 1997 death-in-custody case of Stefan 
Stanev to 2\1/2\ years. The case is pending appeal.
    The 1996 murder case of former Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov 
remains unsolved. The investigation was ongoing at year's end, with 
several suspects arrested and released during the year. On June 1, 
authorities arrested Yurii Lenev in connection with the murder of 
Lukanov and reportedly beat him before he was taken to the SIS 
detention facility. Lenev's family members reported that when they were 
permitted to see him finally on June 12, his bruises from the beating 
still were visible. The Military Prosecutor's Office opened an 
investigation into this case, but no progress was made by year's end. 
Angel Vasiliev was extradited from the Czech Republic in September. 
According to press reports, Vasiliev is suspected of having paid 
$100,000 for the murder of Lukanov. Before his death, Lukanov 
criticized the Socialist Party's special treatment of the Orion group, 
to which Vasiliev's construction company belongs and which is suspected 
of misappropriating funds from several banks.
    There were two instances of members of the Romani ethnic minority 
being killed by private citizens. An incident of racial violence 
resulted in the beating death of a Romani woman at the hands of teenage 
boys. In another incident, a trespassing Romani boy was shot by a 
private citizen (see Section 5).
    The 1996 case of Anguel Zabchikov, a 17-year-old Romani boy who 
died in police custody, was still ongoing at year's end, pending a 
hearing before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
    In February four policemen were convicted of murdering an ethnic 
Turk during a protest against the forced assimilation campaign in May 
1989; the highest sentence meted out was 2\1/2\ years.
    There was no progress in the trial concerning the notorious death 
camps set up by the Communists after they took power in 1944.
    b. Disappearance.--There were no reports of politically motivated 
disappearances.
    c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment.--The Constitution expressly prohibits torture and cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading treatment; however, despite this prohibition, 
police commonly beat criminal suspects and members of minorities, at 
times to extract false testimony. In particular, security forces 
physically abuse street children, the majority of whom are Roma.
    The Human Rights Project (HRP) reported that on January 17, a 
police officer in Pleven harassed and beat Stefka Madjarova. After 
ordering her to leave the market where she was selling her goods, the 
police officer demanded her identification. He then ordered Madjarova 
to follow him to a police station at the market where she was beaten 
with a club. Madjarova was struck on the legs and has forensic evidence 
(a medical certificate) for the injuries that she sustained. There were 
three witnesses on the scene. A complaint has been filed with the 
Regional Military Prosecutor's Office in Pleven.
    In January two policemen beat Rom Kiril Nikolov Spasov from Russe 
and forced him to give false testimony.
    On July 22, police officers in Pavlinkeni reportedly beat two Roma, 
Atanas Assenov and Assen Assenov, who had been detained and left a 
third Rom, Anton Assenov, who had been shot earlier by a private 
security guard without medical attention for several hours. The private 
security guard accused the Roma and their companions of stealing fruit 
and reportedly shot at them when they tried to escape, wounding one Rom 
in the back of his head. When police arrived and called an ambulance, 
the emergency medical technicians reportedly refused to treat him. The 
police officers detained the Roma and took them to the Pavlinkeni 
regional police department, where they reportedly beat Atanas and 
Assen. Anton reportedly was left outside the police department in a 
horse cart for several hours, after which the police called another 
ambulance, and he received medical treatment. The Roma filed complaints 
against the police officers and security guard involved. The Military 
Prosecutor's office on November 16 declined to initiate a criminal 
proceeding on the matter.
    On September 8, three police officers beat a Romani woman, Tanya 
Borissova, outside of the labor bureau in Pazardzhik. A large number of 
Roma had assembled outside the bureau to obtain information about jobs. 
Three police officers beat Borissova after claiming that she had pushed 
one of them. They arrested her, and that same day the Pazardzhik 
district court sentenced her to 5 days in custody for ``minor 
hooliganism.''
    On October 2, a police officer in a police car approached a group 
of five Roma--Lilyan Zanev, Spas Berkov, Nedyalko Zanev, Simeon Zanev, 
and Roumyana Berkova--gathered on the outskirts of Pleven and 
questioned them. Another police car with two officers joined the first, 
and the three beat the five Roma with truncheons for approximately 30 
minutes and told the Roma that they suspected them of intending to rob 
nearby homes. One Rom obtained a medical certificate documenting his 
injuries and filed a complaint with the regional military prosecutor's 
office in Pleven.
    In July authorities arrested parliamentary deputy Tsvetelin Kanchev 
of the Euroleft Party for kidnaping, beating, robbing, and blackmailing 
persons in his district of Zlatiza. His trial began in November, and 
several persons who were involved in the beatings were set to testify.
    In March the Military Prosecutor's office closed the investigation 
into the 1998 mass police raid of a Romani neighborhood in the village 
of Mechka, citing the impossibility of positively identifying the 
individuals involved. The March 1998 case of Rossen Alekov who 
reportedly was beaten by police was closed in June 1998, when the 
Military Prosecutor's office declined to initiate a criminal 
investigation.
    There were reports of police abuse of journalists (see Section 
2.a.).
    According to Ministry of Interior (MOI) data, 40 cases of police 
brutality were confirmed for the period January 1 to July 22. The 
police generally have refused to make investigative reports available 
to the public. The MOI statistics reflect only those complaints 
registered by the alleged victims. Human rights monitors report that 
they receive many more complaints from persons who are too intimidated 
to lodge an official complaint with the authorities.
    Reports continue that criminal suspects in police custody run a 
significant risk of being mistreated. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee 
(BHC) conducted a survey in prisons in January and found that 51 
percent of interviewed prisoners reported that police officers used 
physical force against them during arrest; 53 percent reported 
mistreatment at police stations. Romani prisoners reported being abused 
more frequently than other prisoners. Very seldom are allegations of 
police abuse properly investigated nor are the offending officers 
consistently punished. In particular, the Military Prosecutor's office 
has not investigated incidents of alleged police abuse thoroughly or 
expeditiously. In a shift from previous years, human rights observers 
were granted access to SIS detention facilities for the first time in 
February. Observers still are prohibited from interviewing detainees in 
the SIS facilities, unlike in regular prisons.
    Crime and corruption remained primary concerns of the Government 
during the year. The criminal justice system is in a time of 
transition. New legislation was enacted in late 1998 intended to 
improve and streamline the criminal justice process, which has long 
been an acknowledged problem. The new law, whose provisions all were to 
be enacted by January 1, 2000, was to reorganize and reallocate 
authorities among police, the SIS, prosecutors, and judges, and devolve 
greater authority to regional authorities. The full details of the 
plan's implementation and its effectiveness in achieving real reform 
remain to be seen.
    There have been unconfirmed reports of local or police involvement 
in trafficking in persons (see Section 6.f.).
    Conditions in some prisons are harsh and include severe 
overcrowding, inadequate lavatory facilities, and insufficient heating 
and ventilation. The SIS's parallel network of jails and prisons, newly 
transferred as of December to Justice Ministry control under recent 
legislative changes, contains many of the harshest detention 
facilities. Credible sources reported numerous cases of brutality 
committed by prison guards against inmates. However, there were no more 
reports during the year of prisoners being placed in solitary 
confinement after complaining about their treatment. The BHC reports 
that the Government has taken vigorous and effective action to combat 
the tuberculosis outbreak reported last year, much reducing this 
problem. Justice Ministry information for 1999 indicates a 40 percent 
decrease in tuberculosis infections from 1998 figures. The BHC further 
reports that nutritional deficiencies which had exacerbated this 
problem also have been improved. The process by which prisoners may 
complain of substandard conditions or of mistreatment does not appear 
to function effectively.
    The Government cooperated with requests by independent observers to 
monitor conditions in prisons and detention facilities. The European 
Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) inspected a number of 
prisons and detention facilities during the year. Human rights 
observers reported that several of the country's worst detention 
facilities were closed down by the Government prior to the CPT visit 
and remain closed.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--The Constitution 
provides for protection against arbitrary arrest and detention; 
however, police often arbitrarily detain and arrest street children, 
the majority of whom are Roma.
    The Constitution provides for access to legal counsel from the time 
of detention. However, a survey of prisoners conducted by the BHC found 
that 54 percent of prisoners complained that they had no lawyer present 
during preliminary investigations. Police normally obtain a warrant 
from a prosecutor prior to apprehending an individual; otherwise, in 
emergency circumstances police may detain individuals for up to 24 
hours on their own authority; however, authorities must rule on the 
legality of such detention by the end of that time period. If the 
person is released without being charged before the 24-hour period 
elapses, there is no judicial involvement in the case. Human rights 
observers charge that police commonly handle minor offenses by 
arresting the suspect, beating him, and releasing him within the 24-
hour period. Defendants have the right to visits by family members, to 
examine evidence, and to know the charges against them. Charges may not 
be made public without the permission of the Prosecutor General. In the 
interests of a speedy trial, investigations now are prescribed by law 
to last no more than 2 months under normal circumstances, although this 
period may be extended to 6 months by the head regional prosecutor, and 
up to 9 months by the Prosecutor General. In practice, persons often 
have been detained for 1 to 2 years without a conviction. It is not 
unusual for cases to be returned by the prosecutors or judges for 
further investigation. This generally restarts the clock, although some 
recent court interpretations have directed that the time limits should 
apply cumulatively to all the investigation periods on a given case. 
Under the terms of a 1997 amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure, 
pretrial detention can last no more than 1 year or, if the alleged 
offense is punishable by over 15 years' imprisonment, life 
imprisonment, or capital punishment, no more than 2 years. Spurred by 
the new law and by decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, the 
Government starting in August for the first time released a number of 
pretrial detainees whose detentions had exceeded the limit and 
announced its intention to abide by these limits from that point on. 
Typically if a judge returns a case to the prosecutors for further 
work, the clock is restarted on the time limit, although this process 
has not been tested yet thoroughly in the courts.
    Data confirm that the Government made progress in reducing the 
number of pretrial detainees during the year. According to the Ministry 
of Justice, as of June 30, 646 inmates were in pretrial detention, 
which represents a 35 percent drop from 993 in mid-1998. The number of 
persons on trial as of that date was 1,616--an almost 18 percent drop 
from 1,960 in 1998. (Defendants are categorized as ``on trial'' after 
their cases have been sent first to a trial judge, even though the 
judge may have sent the case back to the prosecutors and SIS for 
further investigation.) As of June 30, there were 8,669 convicted 
prisoners in the prison system. Thus the total inmate population in the 
prison system was 10,931. These figures do not include persons 
incarcerated in the separate SIS detention facilities, for which 
current data have not been made available. As of June 30, 1998, the SIS 
had 3,257 detainees, of whom 842 were in pretrial detention.
    In the event of a conviction, the time spent in pretrial detention 
is credited toward the sentence. The Constitution provides for bail, 
and some detainees have been released under this provision, although 
bail is not used widely.
    The Government does not use forced exile.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--Under the Constitution, the 
judiciary is granted independent and coequal status with the 
legislature and executive branch; however, the judiciary continues to 
struggle with problems such as low salaries, understaffing, antiquated 
procedures, corruption, and a heavy backlog of cases. Partly as a 
legacy of communism and partly because of the court system's structural 
and personnel problems, many citizens have little confidence in the 
judicial system. Human rights groups complain that local prosecutors 
and magistrates sometimes fail to pursue vigorously crimes committed 
against minorities. Many observers believe that reforms are essential 
to establish a fair and impartial, as well as efficient, judicial 
system.
    The court system consists of regional courts, district courts, and 
Supreme Courts of Cassation (civil and criminal appeal) and 
Administration. The Constitutional Court, which is separate from the 
rest of the court system, is empowered to rescind legislation that it 
considers unconstitutional, settle disputes over the conduct of general 
elections, and resolve conflicts over the division of powers between 
the various branches of government. Military courts handle cases 
involving military personnel (including police personnel) and some 
cases involving national security matters. The Constitutional Court 
does not have specific jurisdiction in matters of military justice.
    Local observers contend that organized crime influences the 
prosecutor's office. Few organized crime figures have been prosecuted 
to date, but in 1997 the Government made the battle against organized 
crime a priority and reformed the Penal Code to that end. The Ministry 
of Interior has requested and received assistance from Western 
countries in its efforts to close legal loopholes and strengthen 
enforcement capabilities against criminal economic groupings engaged in 
racketeering and other illegal activities.
    In December 1998, a reformulated Supreme Judicial Council 
overturned its predecessor's appointment of a new Prosecutor General in 
a controversial move that nonetheless was approved by the 
Constitutional Court. It then named a new Prosecutor General, who has 
moved to strengthen the prosecutor's office with a view toward 
increasing the country's low prosecution rate.
    A draft law on a new criminal procedure code was passed by the 
National Assembly in the fall of 1998. The aim of the new law is to 
reform the judiciary and remove the more cumbersome aspects of its 
functioning, such as the long delays created by the referral of cases 
back and forth between different offices. It also increases executive 
branch oversight of judges and prosecutors. All of the provisions of 
the new law are to become effective by January 1, 2000. Under the new 
procedure, the role of the SIS was curtailed, and most investigators 
were assigned to work directly for local prosecutors, while the 
National Police Service also is to take a larger role in 
investigations. However, before this system can become effective, the 
Government must assure that magistrates, and especially investigators, 
receive the appropriate training--a need of which senior officials are 
acutely aware.
    Despite recommending its own dissolution in December 1998 when it 
announced that Bulgaria had made sufficient progress in democracy and 
human right to no longer require monitoring, the Observation Committee 
of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe nonetheless 
restated its concerns about inadequate safeguards for the independence 
of the judiciary in the country.
    Judges are appointed by the 25-member Supreme Judicial Council and, 
after serving for 3 years, may not be removed except under limited, 
specified circumstances. The difficulty and rarity of replacing judges 
virtually regardless of performance often has been cited as a hindrance 
to effective law enforcement. The 12 justices on the Constitutional 
Court are chosen for 9-year terms as follows: One-third are elected by 
the National Assembly, one-third appointed by the President, and one-
third elected by judicial authorities.
    The Constitution stipulates that all courts shall conduct hearings 
in public unless the proceedings involve state security or national 
secrets. There were no reported complaints about limited access to 
courtroom proceedings. Defendants have the right to know the charges 
against them and are given ample time to prepare a defense. The right 
of appeal is provided for and is used widely. Defendants in criminal 
proceedings have the right to confront witnesses and to have an 
attorney, provided by the state if necessary in serious cases.
    Human rights observers consider ``Educational Boarding Schools'' 
(formerly known as ``Labor Education Schools'') to which problem 
children can be sent as little different from penal institutions. 
However, since the schools are not considered prisons under the law, 
the procedures by which children are confined in these schools are not 
subject to minimal due process. Human rights observer groups such as 
the Bulgarian Lawyers for Human Rights criticize this denial of due 
process. Children sometimes appear alone despite the requirement that 
parents must attend hearings; the right to an attorney at the hearing 
is prohibited expressly by law. Decisions in these cases are not 
subject to judicial review, and children typically stay in the 
Educational Boarding Schools for 3 years or until they reach majority 
age, whichever occurs first. In late 1996, the Parliament enacted 
legislation that provided for court review of sentencing to such 
schools, set a limit of a 3-year stay, and addressed other problems in 
these institutions (see Section 5). Some observers dismiss this court 
review provision as a formality, since the child is not present to 
speak on his or her own behalf (nor is the defense lawyer or the 
child's parents).
    There was no progress in a case begun in 1993 relating to the 
forced assimilation and expulsion of ethnic Turks in 1984-85 and 1989.
    There were no reports of political prisoners.
    f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--The Constitution provides for the inviolability of the 
home, the right to choose one's place of work and residence, and the 
freedom and confidentiality of correspondence, and government 
authorities generally respect these provisions.
    One nongovernmental organization (NGO) complained that the Minister 
of Interior's discretionary authority to authorize telephone wiretaps 
without judicial review is excessive, although it is unknown to what 
extent this authority is employed. It is also alleged that warrants to 
investigate suspects' private financial records sometimes are abused to 
give police broad and openended authority to engage in far-ranging 
investigations of a suspect's family and associates. There are regular, 
albeit not conclusive or systematic, reports of mail, especially 
foreign mail, being delayed and/or opened.
    Traffickers in persons use threats against women's families and 
family reputations to ensure obedience (see Section 6.f.).
Section 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 this right in practice. The Electronic Media Bill was adopted 
by the National Assembly in October 1998. In November 1998, President 
Stoyanov vetoed the bill because of provisions concerning the structure 
of the National Council on Radio and Television, the ban on airing 
commercial advertisements during prime time, minority language 
programming, and the funding of Bulgarian National Television (BNT) and 
Bulgarian National Radio (BNR). The National Assembly accepted all of 
the revisions forwarded by the President with the exception of the 
proposed lifting of the ban on primetime advertising. In June the 
Constitutional Court considered a motion from opposition Members of 
Parliament (M.P.'s) concerning the constitutionality of 60 provisions 
of the bill and found all of them to be constitutional except the one 
concerning the means of collecting television fees. The M.P.'s 
complained that the National Council for Radio and Television, a quasi-
governmental body that governs national media and regulates private 
broadcasters, was too vulnerable to political manipulation by the 
ruling party of the day.
    Among media professionals and the broader public, the belief 
persists that the Government exerts an unduly large influence on the 
media though official channels, i.e., the Radio and Television Council, 
and unofficially by influencing advertisers not to use media outlets 
that are too critical of government policy or officials. While such 
claims are widely made and believed, little hard evidence exists to 
document concrete examples of government intimidation of editors or 
their broadcasters.
    A variety of newspapers are published freely by political parties 
and other organizations representing the full spectrum of political 
opinion. Journalists frequently color their reports to conform with the 
views of the political parties or economic groups that own their 
respective newspapers. However, the leading opposition newspaper Douma 
was forced to suspend publication on June 18 because it was unable to 
pay the more than $100,000 (Lev 180,000) it owed the State Printing 
House. Publication resumed on July 22, after a new investor bought a 51 
percent stake in the newspaper. While the leader of the Bulgarian 
Socialist Party, which sponsors the newspaper, believed that the 
printing house's action against the newspaper was politically 
motivated, the new majority owner declared that the newspaper's 
suspension had been strictly an economic problem.
    There were repeated reports of police abuse of journalists. In July 
Darin Kirkov took photographs of Varna municipal workers tearing down 
illegal buildings, and police officers destroyed Kirkov's film. 
Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev swiftly responded to the incident with 
an order specifically banning police violence against journalists. On 
June 28, unidentified assailants stabbed and beat Aleksei Lazarov who 
works for the independent weekly Kapital; however, they did not rob 
Lazarov. Lazarov suffered a broken leg and multiple knife wounds. The 
Bulgarian National Combat Service Against Organized Crime opened an 
investigation into the incident, but there was no progress in the case 
at year's end. On July 7, unidentified assailants attacked Svetla 
Asenova, a layout editor for the Computer World weekly. Asenova was 
beaten and robbed, and as a result hospitalized with a skull fracture. 
According to the NGO Human Rights Watch, at least 11 violent attacks 
were carried out against media representatives in 1998, including 
physical assaults and bombings of newspaper offices. Attempts to 
intimidate journalists investigating corruption were thought to be the 
motivation for the attacks.
    Libel is punishable under the Criminal Code. In July Parliament 
passed an amendment to the Penal Code changing the punishment for libel 
from imprisonment to the imposition of a fine of up to about $16,200 
(Lev 30,000)--a heavy fine in the Bulgarian context. A convicted 
journalist failing to pay the fine would then face imprisonment. It is 
the firm conviction of several human rights organizations, as well as 
the majority of the journalist community, that prosecutors use their 
authority to curb free expression in the press, particularly when such 
expression is critical of prosecutors. In recent years this law has 
been used sparingly, but there have been two cases in the last 3 years 
in which reporters have been convicted of libel and sentenced to prison 
terms or large fines. In January the outgoing Prosecutor General Ivan 
Tatarchev initiated a criminal investigation of Tatiana Vaksberg of 
Radio Free Europe for ``insulting state authority'' and offending 
Tatarchev's ``honor and dignity,'' after she broadcast a commentary 
critical of Tatarchev. Charges were filed against Tatarchev, and the 
case was still pending at year's end. The Parliamentary Assembly of the 
Council of Europe Observation Committee visited the country in 1998 and 
expressed continuing concern that media independence still remained at 
risk and disappointment that libel and slander remained criminal 
offenses. However, the Committee also was abolished on its own 
recommendation based on the country's progress towards achieving human 
rights standards.
    Only the two state-owned national television channels have 
nationwide coverage. In July the Government initiated procedures to 
license a private national television station. Should this occur, the 
private station will be in direct competition with the remaining state 
television entity (to be renamed Public Television). To date, plans for 
BNT to broadcast in Turkish have not been implemented. However, local 
affiliates of BNR have been broadcasting limited programming in Turkish 
in areas where there are sizable Turkish-speaking populations.
    Television and radio news programs on the state-owned media present 
opposition views, but opposition members claim that their activities 
and views are given less broadcast time and exposure than the those of 
the ruling party. There are no formal restrictions on programming. Both 
television and radio provide a variety of news and public interest 
programming.
    There are more than 30 independent radio stations (both local and 
regional). The licensing procedure for both commercial and public radio 
and television operators started in 1998, but the process has seen 
chronic delays. As a result, all private electronic media are operating 
currently without a license. Owners of private radio stations have 
expressed concern that the authorities intentionally were delaying the 
process in order to exert censorship leverage prior to the October 
local elections. Some private radio stations still complain that the 
strength of their transmission is restricted unduly, with the result 
that they cannot compete fully with national (state-owned) radio. All 
transmission facilities are owned by the central Government.
    Foreign government radio programs such as the British Broadcasting 
Corporation, Deutsche Welle, Radio Free Europe, and the Voice of 
America have good access to commercial radio frequencies.
    Private book publishing remained unhindered by political 
considerations.
    The Government respects academic freedom.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The Constitution 
provides for the right to peaceful assembly, and the Government 
generally respected this right in practice. The authorities require 
permits for rallies and assemblies held outdoors, but most legally 
registered organizations routinely were granted permission to assemble. 
Vigorous political rallies and demonstrations were a common occurrence 
and generally took place without government interference.
    The Government has undertaken to respect the rights of individuals 
and groups to establish freely their own political parties or other 
political organizations; however, there are constitutional and 
statutory restrictions that limit the right of association and 
meaningful participation in the political process. For example, the 
Constitution forbids the formation of political parties along 
religious, ethnic, or racial lines and prohibits ``citizens' 
associations'' from engaging in political activity. This provision is 
designed to prevent the development of parties based on a single ethnic 
or other group that could prove divisive for national unity by stirring 
up ethnic tension for political purposes. Nonetheless, the mainly 
ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) is represented in 
Parliament. The other major political parties generally accept the 
MRF's right to participate in the political process. In August the 
Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the Ilinden-Pirin United 
Macedonian Organization (OMO)--an ethnic-Macedonian organization--be 
registered to participate as a political party in municipal elections 
in October. The Court overruled the decision of the Central Commission 
for Local Elections, which failed to register the group on August 25. 
The decision of the Supreme Administrative Court was final and could 
not be appealed. On February 12, a Sofia municipal court first 
registered the group. In March a group of 61 M.P.'s petitioned the 
Constitutional Court to rule on the constitutionality of the group's 
registration. The Court declined to rule on the case before the October 
local elections.
    The Constitution also prohibits organizations that threaten the 
country's territorial integrity or unity, or that incite racial, 
ethnic, or religious hatred. The Government has refused since 1990 to 
register a self-proclaimed Macedonian rights group, OMO-Ilinden (not 
the same organization as the similarly named Ilinden-Pirin OMO noted 
above), on the grounds that it is separatist. There were no reports of 
any prosecutions for simple membership in this group.
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution provides for freedom of 
religion; however, the Government restricts this right in practice for 
some non-Orthodox religious groups. The legal requirement that groups 
whose activities have a religious element register with the Council of 
Ministers remained an obstacle to the activity of some religious 
groups, such as the Unification Church and the Church of the Nazarene 
(which has tried repeatedly to register for more than 5 years), prior 
to or in the absence of registration. Furthermore several municipal 
governments established local registration requirements for religious 
groups, despite the lack of clear legal authority to do so. In some 
cases, local authorities used the lack of registration as a pretext for 
interference against some groups and employed arbitrary harassment 
tactics against others. In 1998 the ability of a small number of 
religious groups to conduct services freely came under attack, both as 
a result of action by local government authorities and because of 
public intolerance. Such reports subsided during the year.
    Jehovah's Witnesses finally received central government 
registration in October 1998, after a lengthy delay. A member of 
Jehovah's Witnesses who refused to serve in the military was sentenced 
to a prison term in 1998 and was imprisoned from December 1998 until 
March 1999. He was released due to a presidential pardon. A new law 
providing for a civilian alternative to military conscription went into 
effect on January 1. However, the alternative civilian service requires 
double the time commitment of military service. According to Human 
Rights Watch, police also have arrested children and adult members of 
Jehovah's Witnesses for distributing religious tracts, and detained 
other members of Jehovah's Witnesses for proselytizing.
    Some observers note with concern a tendency by certain 
municipalities to enact regulations that may be used to limit religious 
freedoms if a perceived need arises. For example, a regulation passed 
by Sofia municipality in February forbids references to miracles and 
healing during religious services, a provision that many fear may be 
employed as a pretext to ban or interrupt services by charismatic 
evangelical groups. The regulation cites a Communist-era law dating 
from 1949, which is technically still in effect and which forbids 
foreigners from proselytizing and administering religious services in 
the country. The decree, although subsequently modified in response to 
NGO objections, is still criticized by religious rights groups as 
containing provisions that are either discriminatory or ambiguous and 
open to abuse. Other municipalities have enacted similar regulations. 
In January the city council in Burgas refused to register the local 
branch of Jehovah's Witnesses, despite the fact that they were 
registered by the central Government. The council asked the group to 
prove that they had not been banned in any European Union country in 
order to be registered. The 1949 law also has been criticized in its 
own right as an outmoded potential impediment to free religious 
activity. However, despite the law's continued technical validity, 
foreign missionaries can and do receive permission to proselytize in 
the country, and many have noted a marked improvement in both 
governmental and societal attitudes since the start of 1998. A new law 
on religious activity currently is being drafted but has not yet been 
moved to the floor of the National Assembly for a vote.
    In June the city of Plovdiv fined an Austrian citizen about $300 
(Lev 500) for proselytizing on behalf of Jehovah's Witnesses, on the 
grounds that the Church was not registered with the city. However, many 
observers dispute the legal authority of municipal governments to 
require local registration.
    Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 
(Mormons) reported several incidents of harassment by police and by 
local authorities, with police interrupting services to demand 
passports and registration documents for the Church and its members. 
For example, in July police officers in Stara Zagora interrupted a 
Mormon religious service and demanded to see the identification 
documents of those who were present. The officers claimed that the 
Church's registration was out of date. Mormon missionaries reported 
several incidents of police harassment.
    There were instances of police interference with religious groups' 
worship services and of their ``streetboarding'' efforts (in which the 
groups erect a signboard and invite passersby to learn more about the 
denomination's precepts).
    On May 21 in Plovdiv, police interrupted the streetboarding 
activities of missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day 
Saints (LDS Church), claiming that the Church must have registered with 
the municipal government to operate in the city, although there is no 
legal basis for such a requirement.
    On July 11 in Stara Zagora, three police officers interrupted a 
service of the LDS Church by demanding that church officials and 
parishioners present their identification documents.
    On July 15 in Burgas, several LDS missionaries again were 
interrupted in their streetboarding activities by several police 
officers, citing unspecified laws against it. Police confiscated the 
signboard.
    In March a schoolteacher in Gabrovo who is a member of a 
Pentecostal church resigned from her job. She claimed that she was 
intimidated into resigning as a result of her religious beliefs. Her 
lawsuit against the school currently is pending.
    The Constitution designates Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the 
``traditional'' religion. The Government provides financial support for 
the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and other denominations it considers to 
be ``traditional.'' Along with the Orthodox Church, the Muslim, 
Catholic, and Jewish minority religious communities generally are 
perceived as maintaining a long-standing place in Bulgarian society and 
hence benefit from a relatively high degree of tolerance, as well as 
some government financial support.
    For most registered religious groups there were no restrictions on 
attendance at religious services or on private religious instruction. A 
school for imams, a Muslim cultural center, university-level 
theological faculties, and religious primary schools operated freely. 
In December the Ministry of Education announced that schools would 
begin offering classes on Islam in 2000 in regions with a significant 
Muslim minority. Since 1997, religious classes on the Bible have been 
available to students whose parents approve such instruction. Bibles 
and other religious materials in the Bulgarian language were imported 
freely and printed on most occasions, and Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish 
publications were published on a regular basis.
    Although previously during compulsory military service most Muslim 
conscripts were placed in construction units rather than serving in 
combat-role military units, late in the year the Government ended this 
practice and abolished such construction battalions (see Section 5).
    There were no indications that the Government discriminated against 
members of any religious group in making restitution to previous owners 
of properties that were nationalized during the Communist regime. The 
Government in general has supported actively property restitution for 
the legally recognized organization representing the Jewish community, 
although the return of two lucrative commercial Jewish communal 
properties continues to encounter administrative obstacles and legal 
challenges.
    At the Department of Theology of Sofia University, all students are 
required to present a certificate of baptism from the Orthodox Church, 
and married couples must present a marriage certificate from the Church 
in order to enroll in the Department's classes. It remains impossible 
for non-Orthodox applicants to be admitted to the Department of 
Theology.
    The Government refused to recognize an alternative Patriarch 
elected by supporters in 1996, and the schism that opened in the 
Orthodox Church in 1992 continued, despite the death of this 
alternative Patriarch in April. The Government nevertheless encouraged 
the feuding factions to heal their prolonged rift. By year's end, these 
efforts had not met with success.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--The Constitution provides for freedom of 
movement within the country and the right to leave it, and these rights 
are not limited in practice, with the exception of border zones where 
access is limited for nonresidents (the border zones extend 1.2 to 3 
miles inward from each border). Every citizen has the right to return 
to the country, may not be forcibly expatriated, and may not be 
deprived of citizenship acquired by birth.
    The Government grants asylum or refugee status in accordance with 
the standards of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of 
Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Law on Refugees, which went into 
effect August 1, regulates the procedure for granting refugee status as 
well as the rights and obligations of refugees. The Agency for 
Refugees, formerly the National Bureau for Territorial Asylum and 
Refugees, is charged with following this procedure and cooperating with 
the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
    The Government provides first asylum. However, during the Kosovo 
crisis, the Government's definition of first asylum became very narrow. 
Although the Government initially expressed its willingness to 
temporarily shelter 5,000 Kosovar refugees, it soon proved reluctant to 
accept more than the approximately 200 Kosovar Albanians who had 
arrived by mid-April. Citing economic difficulties, the desire to avoid 
ethnic and religious conflicts within its own borders, and the priority 
accorded to potential ethnic Bulgarian refugees, the Government pledged 
to accept only those refugees who expressed an explicit desire to come 
to Bulgaria. According to Prime Minister Kostov, first asylum applied 
only to those refugees who came to the country directly (passing 
through Serbia proper to do so) and not those who first arrived in the 
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Thus instead of 
accepting refugees from the over-crowded FYROM camps, the Government 
established and ran a refugee camp in FYROM. The Government also 
provided FYROM with medical facilities, prefabricated houses, portable 
showers, and meal sites.
    In recent years, domestic and international human rights 
organizations have expressed concern over the Government's handling of 
asylum claims and reported that there may have been cases in which bona 
fide refugees were turned away at the border. No such cases were 
reported during the year. However, because NGO's lack institutionalized 
access to the country's borders, it is often difficult for them to 
monitor the Government's handling of asylum cases. For the first 6 
months of the year, the Ministry of Interior reported that 803 persons 
applied for refugee status. Authorities granted 60 applicants refugee 
status, while 295 were granted temporary humanitarian status for either 
6 months or 1 year.
    The Agency for Refugees reports that, from its inception in 1993 
until June 30, a total of 3,637 persons applied for asylum. Of these 
applications, 930 were accepted, 248 refused; for 683 applicants the 
procedure was terminated (usually because the applicant could not be 
found). Citizens from Afghanistan and Iraq generally constitute the 
majority of asylum seekers, but during the first half of the year, the 
majority were citizens of Serbia-Montenegro, including the province of 
Kosovo. Domestic and international human rights organizations complain 
that the adjudication process is slow, but the UNHCR notes that the 
Agency for Refugees has begun a major restructuring project to reduce 
the adjudication time to a period of 3 months. The restructuring 
project itself is expected to take 4 years. In 1997 and 1998, the 
UNHCR, in cooperation with an NGO, opened three transit centers near 
the Greek, Turkish, and Romanian borders and assisted the Government 
with opening a small reception center in Banya. During the Kosovo 
crisis, the Bulgarian Red Cross also set up emergency refugee centers 
in Pirin. Plans to open a reception center at the Sofia airport 
continue to be delayed due to a lack of funding. However, the UNHCR 
currently is working on plans to open a transit center in Kapitan 
Andreevo, on the border with Turkey.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to 
        Change Their Government
    Citizens have the right to change their government and head of 
state through the election of the President and of the members of the 
National Assembly, although the constitutional prohibition of parties 
formed on ethnic, racial, or religious lines has the effect of 
circumscribing access to the political party process for some groups 
(see Section 2.b.), particularly those Roma who have expressed a desire 
to create their own party. Suffrage is universal at the age of 18.
    No legal restrictions hinder the participation of women in 
government and politics; however, they are underrepresented. Women hold 
just under 11 percent of the seats in the current Parliament. However, 
a number of women hold elective and appointive office at high levels, 
including three cabinet-level posts and several key positions in 
Parliament. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the leader of the 
United Democratic Forces parliamentary group (the dominant party in the 
Government) are both women.
    No legal restrictions hinder the participation of minorities in 
politics, apart from the prohibition of ethnically, racially, or 
religiously based parties. However, while ethnic Turks' representation 
in the National Assembly is close to commensurate with their share of 
population, there were only two Romani Members of Parliament; an 
improvement over 1998, when there were none. Both groups are 
underrepresented in appointed governmental positions, especially 
leadership positions.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigations of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    Domestic and international human rights groups operate freely, 
investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. 
Government officials, especially local officials, occasionally are 
reluctant to provide information or active cooperation. Local human 
rights groups now are permitted to visit the SIS detention facilities 
to which they previously were denied access.
    Legislation reportedly is pending to establish the post of human 
rights ombudsman, but to date the position has not been created.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language, or Social Status
    The Constitution provides for individual rights, equality, and 
protection against discrimination; however, in practice discrimination 
still exists, particularly against Roma and women.
    Women.--Domestic abuse is a serious and common problem, but there 
are no official statistics on its occurrence. The Animus Association 
(AA), an NGO that offers assistance and support to female victims of 
violence, estimates that one in five women suffers from spousal abuse. 
Spousal rape is a crime, but it rarely is prosecuted. Currently, the 
law exempts from state prosecution certain types of assault if 
committed by a family member, and the Government does not assist in 
prosecuting crimes of domestic assault unless the woman has been killed 
or injured permanently. Courts and prosecutors tend to view domestic 
abuse as a family rather than criminal problem, and in most cases, 
victims of domestic violence take refuge with family or friends rather 
than approach the authorities. Police are not allowed to intervene in 
cases of domestic abuse, even if a woman calls them seeking protection 
or assistance. No government agencies provide shelter or counseling for 
victims. While the municipality of Sofia promised a building to the AA 
2 years ago to use as a shelter for abused women, it has yet to follow 
through on its promise. However, the NGO Nadya De Center provides 
shelter to battered women. The courts prosecute rape, although it 
remains an underreported crime because some stigma still attaches to 
the victim. The maximum sentence for rape is 8 years; convicted 
offenders often receive a lesser sentence or early parole.
    Ministry of Interior figures reveal that during the first half of 
the year, 300 rapes and 60 attempted rapes were reported.
    During the year, the AA reported 1,049 cases of domestic violence, 
105 cases of sexual violence, and 59 cases of trafficking in women. The 
actual incidence of each form of violence is certainly much higher, as 
these represent those cases in which the victim (or, in some 
trafficking cases, an overseas women's group) was willing and able to 
contact the AA. The association also operates a 24-hour hot line for 
women in crisis that is staffed by the association's 12 full-time 
professional therapists.
    In 1997 the Government enacted a law against trafficking in women, 
and trafficking in women and girls is a serious problem (see Section 
6.f.).
    Local observers believe that sexual harassment is a problem; it is 
not currently illegal.
    Many of the approximately 30 women's organizations are closely 
associated with political parties or have primarily professional 
agendas. Some observers believe that women's organizations tend to be 
associated with political parties or professional groups because 
feminism has negative societal connotations. Of those organizations 
that exist mainly to defend women's interests, the two largest are the 
Women's Democratic Union in Bulgaria, heir to the group that existed 
under the Communist dictatorship, and the Bulgarian Women's 
Association, which disappeared under communism but now has reemerged 
with chapters in a number of cities.
    The Constitution forbids privileges or restrictions of rights on 
the basis of sex, and women are not impeded from owning or managing 
businesses, land, or other real property and do not suffer from 
discrimination under inheritance laws. However, women face 
discrimination both in terms of job recruitment and the likelihood of 
layoffs. Official figures show the rate of unemployment for women to be 
higher than that for men. Women are much more likely than men to be 
employed in low-wage jobs requiring little education, and the 
Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) reports 
that the average woman's salary is 68 percent of that earned by the 
average male. Statistics show that women are equally likely to attend 
universities, but they have less opportunity to upgrade their 
qualifications and generally end up in lower-ranking and lower-paying 
positions than their male counterparts. Fewer girls than boys are 
attending schools, especially among minorities. Women generally 
continue to have primary responsibility for child rearing and 
housekeeping even if they are employed outside the home. Since 80 
percent of employed women work in the lowest-paying sectors of the 
labor force, they often must work at two jobs in addition to their 
household duties in order to provide for their families. Female-headed 
households frequently live below the poverty line. There are liberal 
provisions for paid maternity leave; however, these actually may work 
against employers' willingness to hire and retain female employees. 
This is especially noticeable in higher-paying positions in the private 
sector, where many women with engineering degrees are compelled to work 
as secretaries.
    No special government programs seek to address economic 
discrimination or integrate women better into the mainstream of society 
and the economy.
    Children.--The Government generally is committed to protecting 
children's welfare but, with limited resources, falls short in several 
areas. It maintains, for example, a sizable network of orphanages 
throughout the country. However, many of the orphanages are in 
disrepair and lack proper facilities. Government efforts in education 
and health have been constrained by serious budgetary limitations and 
by outmoded social care structures. The Constitution provides for 
mandatory school attendance until the age of 16. However, fewer girls 
than boys are attending school, especially among minorities.
    Credible sources report that there is no provision for due process 
of law for Romani and other juveniles when they are detained in Labor 
Education Schools run by the Ministry of Education. Living conditions 
at these reform schools are poor, offering few medical, educational, or 
social services. The Labor Education School at Slavovitsa has been the 
target of the harshest criticism. Generally, staff members at many such 
institutions lack the proper qualifications and training to care for 
the children adequately. Degrading and severe punishment, such as the 
shaving of a child's head, reduction in diet, severe beatings, and long 
periods of solitary confinement, are common at the schools. In 1996 the 
Ministry of Education acknowledged problems at the schools and 
attributed the cause to a lack of funding. In late 1996, Parliament 
enacted legislation providing for court review of sentencing to such 
schools and addressing other problems in the reform school system (see 
Section 1.e.).
    The vast majority of children are free from societal abuse, 
although some Romani children are frequent targets of skinhead violence 
and arbitrary police detention; the homeless or abandoned were 
particularly vulnerable. Family or community members forced some Romani 
minors into prostitution. Police made little effort to address these 
problems. Some observers believe that there is a growing trend toward 
the use of children in prostitution, burglaries, and narcotics 
distribution. Trafficking in girls for the purpose of forced 
prostitution is a problem (see Section 6.f.).
    People With Disabilities.--Disabled persons by law receive a range 
of financial assistance, including free public transportation, reduced 
prices on modified automobiles, and free equipment such as wheelchairs. 
However, as in other areas, budgetary constraints mean that such 
payments occasionally fall behind. Disabled individuals have access to 
university training and to housing and employment, but architectural 
barriers are a great hindrance in most older buildings. For example, 
there are no elevators in schools or universities. Problems of general 
unemployment and economy undermine initiatives aimed at advancing equal 
opportunity for the disabled. According to the director of the 
Rehabilitation and Social Integration Fund, 82 percent of the disabled 
are unemployed.
    Labor laws intended to protect the interests of the disabled and 
create greater employment opportunity sometimes have a mixed effect. On 
one hand, the law provides incentives for small firms to hire disabled 
workers. For example, the Bureau of Labor pays the first year's salary 
of a disabled employee. On the other hand, workers with disabilities 
are entitled to shorter working hours, which often leads to 
discrimination against them in hiring practices. According to the law, 
any enterprise employing more than 50 persons must hire a certain 
number of disabled workers (between 3 and 10 percent, depending on the 
industry). Those who fail to do so must pay a fine, the proceeds of 
which go to a fund for the disabled. Nevertheless, due to low fines and 
delays in the judicial system, collection rates are extremely low.
    Effective in July students with disabilities must pay the 
university's initial application fee but are exempt from semester fees 
if accepted. In February a Day Center for Social Rehabilitation and 
Integration of the Disabled was opened. Built on land granted by the 
municipality of Sofia and with financial donations, the facility is the 
first of its kind to be fully equipped to address the needs of the 
disabled. In May the city of Russe received with foreign assistance two 
vehicles for use in transporting disabled persons. Recent public works 
have taken the needs of persons with disabilities into account. In July 
one of Sofia's main arteries underwent construction to add ramp access 
to sidewalks. Sofia's new subway system also was designed with 
wheelchair access to stations. Nevertheless, enforcement of a 1995 law 
requiring improved structural access for the disabled has lagged in 
existing, unrenovated buildings.
    Policies and public attitudes prevalent during the Communist era, 
which separated mentally and physically disabled persons, including 
very young children, from the rest of society have persisted. Some 
complain that the effective segregation of disabled children into 
special schools has lowered the quality of their education. However, in 
a recent positive development, construction of a training and 
rehabilitation center for disabled youth in Pomorie began in September. 
The center aims to improve the overall physical and intellectual state 
of disabled youth and to encourage them to acquire new skills and 
participate more actively in the social life of the country.
    Religious Minorities.--Discrimination, harassment, and general 
public intolerance of `'nontraditional'' religious minorities (i.e., 
the great majority of Protestant Christian religions) remained a 
problem, although the number of reported incidents decreased during the 
year. Strongly held suspicion of evangelical denominations among the 
Orthodox populace is widespread and pervasive across the political 
spectrum and has resulted in discrimination. Often cloaked in a veneer 
of ``patriotism,'' intolerance of the religious beliefs of others 
enjoys widespread popularity. Such mainstream public pressure for 
containment of ``foreign religious sects'' inevitably influences 
policymakers. Nevertheless, there were fewer reported incidents of 
harassment of religious groups during the year as society appeared to 
have become more accepting of previously unfamiliar religions.
    Certain religions, including both groups denied registration and 
those officially registered, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, faced 
discriminatory practices (see Section 2.c.), as did other groups, 
which, despite full compliance with the law, were greeted with 
hostility by the press, segments of the public, and certain government 
officials.
    Non-Orthodox religious groups, including Jehovah's Witnesses, the 
Church of God, and the Emmanuel Bible Center, have been affected 
adversely by societal attitudes. Numerous articles in a broad range of 
newspapers as well as television documentaries, drew lurid and 
inaccurate pictures of the activities of non-Orthodox religious groups, 
attributing the breakup of families and drug abuse by youths to the 
practices of these groups and alleging that evangelicals were drugging 
young children.
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities.--Ethnic Turks constitute almost 
10 percent of the population. In the 1992 census, 3.7 percent of the 
population identified itself as Romani; however, the real figure 
probably is closer to 6 or 7 percent, since many persons of Romani 
descent tend to identify themselves to the authorities as ethnic Turks 
or Bulgarians. Ethnic Bulgarian Muslims or ``Pomaks'' are a distinct 
group of Slavic descent, constituting 2 to 3 percent of the population, 
whose ancestors converted from Orthodox Christianity to Islam. Most are 
Muslim, although a number have become atheists or converted back to 
Christianity. These are the country's largest minorities. There are no 
restrictions on speaking Turkish in public or the use of non-Slavic 
names.
    Voluntary Turkish-language classes in public schools, funded by the 
Government, continued in areas with significant Turkish-speaking 
populations, although some observers complained that the Government was 
discouraging optional language classes in areas with large 
concentrations of Muslims. The Ministry of Education has estimated that 
approximately 40,000 children now study Turkish. Some ethnic Turkish 
leaders, mainly in the MRF, demanded that Turkish-language classes be 
made compulsory in areas with significant ethnic Turkish populations, 
but the Government has resisted this effort.
    In May representatives of the MRF and mayors in the Kurdzhali 
region called for the region's governor, Plamen Ivanov, to be dismissed 
for his reported threats against some Turkish mayors in the region. The 
representatives and mayors believed that Ivanov's actions would cause 
ethnic tensions in the region to escalate. Prime Minister Kostov 
launched an investigation into the complaints against Ivanov.
    Cooperation among Romani groups generally improved following 
agreement on the new government Program for Social Integration of Roma, 
adopted in April. Under the plan the Government created Roma Expert 
Committees, under the rubric of the National Council on Ethnic and 
Demographic Issues. The Committees consist of Roma representatives 
appointed by the various Romani NGO's which are members of the Council. 
The Committees (Discrimination, Media, Social Policy, Housing, 
Education, Health, Culture, and Economy) are to work with their 
counterpart Ministries of the Government to implement the program. The 
Discrimination Committee is the centerpiece of the new effort. The 
Discrimination Committee is to study EU countries' experience in 
antidiscrimination legislation and practice, after which it is to 
propose changes in the Penal Code, the Penal Procedure Code, and law 
enforcement regulations. Eventually, the Discrimination Committee is to 
become a permanent legislative branch agency, designed to review 
legislation for discriminatory provisions. It also is to be empowered 
to impose sanctions against discriminatory practices in the country and 
is to have regional offices in each of the country's 28 administrative 
districts. However, the Government has not implemented any of the 
legislation required to enact the program.
    Attacks by private citizens on Roma continued. On January 16, 
several assailants beat Rom Blago Atanassov from Ghelemenko, and he 
died later as a result of his injuries. The district prosecutor in 
Pazardjik opened an investigation into the incident, which led to an 
indictment against the suspected perpetrators. The case did not go to 
trial by year's end. On June 15, four teenage boys were involved in the 
beating death of a 33-year-old Romani beggar, Nadezhda Dimitrova. The 
Sofia city prosecutor's office launched an investigation into the 
murder, but there were no results at year's end. The boys are not known 
to have any connection to organized hate groups.
    In February 16-year-old Rom Nikolai Georgiev was shot while 
trespassing with several other children on private property in an 
affluent neighborhood near Sliven. Accounts differ about whether the 
children were caught in the act of theft or merely seeking shelter from 
inclement weather. Georgiev was shot in the leg, either by the 
homeowner or a security guard, and later bled to death before receiving 
any medical assistance. The case is currently under investigation.
    Police harass, physically abuse, and arbitrarily arrest Romani 
street children (see Sections 1.c. and 1.d.). There was one arrest in 
the 1998 attack on eight Romani boys by skinheads in Sofia. Little 
progress has been made in other cases of violence against Roma during 
previous years, and these largely remain in the investigatory phase.
    As individuals and as an ethnic group, Roma faced high levels of 
discrimination. The Romani population clearly occupies the bottom rung 
of society. Roma encounter difficulties applying for social benefits, 
and rural Roma are discouraged by local officials from claiming land to 
which they are entitled under the law disbanding agricultural 
collectives. Many Roma and other observers made credible allegations 
that the quality of education offered to Romani children is inferior to 
that afforded most other students. For example, the country has 34 all-
Roma schools; according to one estimate, only one-half of all students 
at these schools attend class regularly and only about 10 percent 
successfully graduate. The Government has been largely unsuccessful in 
attracting and keeping many Romani children in school. Many Romani 
children arrive relatively unprepared for schooling; many of them are 
not proficient in the Bulgarian language. Poverty has led to widespread 
school truancy as many children in Romani ghettos cannot afford shoes 
or basic school supplies and instead turn to begging, prostitution, and 
petty crime on the streets. Lack of effective government infrastructure 
and programs and economic and social factors thus combine to deprive 
increasing numbers of Romani youths of an education and a better 
future. Early indications are that some recent initiatives undertaken 
by the Government and by Romani NGO's are achieving some small 
successes in mitigating these problems, for example by providing free 
lunches and subsidizing textbook and tuition costs.
    Workplace discrimination against minorities continued to be a 
problem, especially for Roma. Employers justify such discrimination on 
the basis that most Roma have only elementary training and little 
education.
    Previously it had been common for ethnic Turkish and Romani 
conscripts to be shunted into military construction battalions during 
compulsory military service. This practice raised serious concerns both 
of discrimination and forced labor, particularly since the units 
sometimes accepted commercial construction contracts in addition to 
military construction projects. However, late in the year, the 
Government carried through on its commitment to abolish the 
construction battalions and eliminated this problem. There are only a 
few ethnic Turkish, Pomak, and Romani officers in the military, and an 
insignificant number of high-ranking officers of the Muslim faith.
    Ethnic Turkish politicians maintain that, although their 
community's popularly-elected representation in the National Assembly 
is roughly commensurate with its size, ethnic Turks are 
underrepresented significantly in appointed positions in the state 
administration.
    Several thousand persons, mainly in the southwest, identify 
themselves as ethnic Macedonians, most for historical and geographic 
reasons. Members of the two organizations that purport to defend their 
interests, OMO-Ilinden and TMO-Ilinden, are believed to number in the 
hundreds (see Section 2.b.). The Government does not recognize 
Macedonians as a distinct ethnic group, and the group is not enumerated 
in official government statistics.
Section 6. Worker Rights
    a. The Right of Association.--The Constitution provides for the 
right of all workers to form or join trade unions of their own choice, 
and this right apparently was exercised freely. Estimates of the 
unionized share of the work force range from 30 to 50 percent. This 
share continues to shrink as large firms lay off workers, and most new 
positions appear in small, nonunionized businesses.
    The two largest trade union confederations are the Confederation of 
Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB) and Podkrepa, which 
together represent the overwhelming majority of organized workers. The 
Government does not control the CITUB, the successor to the trade union 
controlled by the former Communist regime. Podkrepa, an independent 
confederation created in 1989, was one of the earliest opposition 
forces but is no longer a member of the UDF, formerly the main 
opposition party, now in the Government. Following legislative changes 
in 1998, which mandated a census of the labor force and created minimum 
qualifications for labor union recognition, none of the other, much 
smaller labor organizations which previously had been represented in 
the National Tripartite Coordination Council were able to qualify. 
Other labor organizations retain the prospect of future recognition if 
they succeed in attracting more members and expanding their 
institutional structures.
    Doctors, dentists, and some unions expressed dissatisfaction with a 
new union structure that they claim the Government imposed upon them in 
1998, an action which some maintain violates an ILO convention.
    The 1992 Labor Code recognizes the right to strike when other means 
of conflict resolution have been exhausted, but ``political strikes'' 
are forbidden. Workers in essential services (primarily the military 
and the police) also are subject to a blanket prohibition against 
striking, although such workers on occasion held an ``effective 
strike'' in which they stop or slow their activities for 1 or 2 hours.
    On most occasions, the Government generally does not interfere with 
legal labor strikes, and several work stoppages took place.
    On May 27, thousands of workers from the metalworking, machine 
building, and arms industries marched through Sofia to protest factory 
closures and the falling standard of living. In December workers from 
the VMZ arms plant in Sopot blocked the road between Sofia and Bourgas 
to protest wage arrears and management's plans to lay off one-third of 
its workers.
    The Podkrepa labor union has complained that an amendment to a 1990 
law, passed in March 1998, facilitated the Government's ability to 
declare a strike illegal. Under this new amendment, workers no longer 
have the right to appeal when a strike is declared illegal. Podkrepa 
maintains that this provision is unconstitutional and violates an ILO 
convention.
    The Labor Code's prohibitions against antiunion discrimination 
include a 6-month period for redress against dismissal as a form of 
retribution. However, there is no mechanism other than the courts for 
resolving complaints, and the burden of proof in such a case rests 
entirely on the employee.
    No restrictions limit affiliation or contact with international 
labor organizations, and unions actively exercise this right.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--The Labor Code 
institutes collective bargaining, which was practiced nationally, 
regionally, and on the local level. The legal prohibition against 
striking for key public sector employees weakens their bargaining 
position; however, these groups were able to influence negotiations by 
staging protests and engaging in other pressure tactics without going 
on strike. Labor unions have complained that while the legal structure 
for collective bargaining was adequate, many employers failed to 
bargain in good faith or to adhere to agreements that were concluded. 
Labor observers viewed the Government's enforcement of labor contracts 
as inadequate.
    In several instances an employer was found guilty of antiunion 
discrimination, but the employers appealed the decisions. The backlog 
of cases in the legal system delayed further action, effectively 
postponing, perhaps indefinitely, redress of workers' grievances.
    The same obligation of collective bargaining and adherence to labor 
standards prevails in the six export processing zones, and unions may 
organize workers in these areas.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--The Constitution 
prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including that performed by 
children; however, trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of 
forced prostitution is a problem (see Section 6.f.). There also have 
been other reports of such practices. In 1997 the BHC issued a report 
on the use of forced child labor to make articles for sale at the 
Slavovitsa Boys' Reform School. An investigation by the Ministry of 
Education into this practice is under way. Many observers had argued 
that the previous practice of shunting minority and conscientious 
objector military draftees into work units that often carried out 
commercial construction and maintenance projects was a form of 
compulsory labor; however, the Government abolished these construction 
battalions late in the year (see Sections 2.c. and 5).
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--The Labor Code sets the minimum age for employment at 16 
years; the minimum age for dangerous work is set at 18. Employers and 
the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP) are responsible for 
enforcing these provisions. Child labor laws are enforced well in the 
formal sector, but some observers believe that children increasingly 
are exploited in certain industries (especially small family-owned 
shops, family farms, construction, and periodical sales) and by 
organized crime (notably for prostitution and distribution of 
narcotics). According to a survey conducted by the MLSP in 1998, more 
than 50,000 children under the age of 16 are believed to be employed 
illegally in the country. Dr. Zhelyasko Hristov, president of the CITUB 
labor union, estimated the total number of illegally employed children 
as at least twice that number. In April the first-ever fine was imposed 
on an employer of illegal child labor. Underage employment in the 
informal and agricultural sectors is believed to be increasing as 
collective farms are broken up and the private sector continues to 
grow. In addition, children are known to work on family-owned tobacco 
farms, and local NGO's reported children working on nonfamily-owned 
farms for meager monetary or in-kind wages (e.g., food).
    Forced and bonded labor by children also is forbidden by law; 
however, trafficking in young girls for the purpose of forced 
prostitution is a problem, and there also have been other reports of 
its use (see Section 6.c. and 6.f.).
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--The national monthly minimum 
wage is approximately $37 (Lev 67), which is not enough to provide a 
decent standard of living for a worker and family. Nonpayment of wages 
and wage payments in arrears continue to be a problem with certain 
employers, although the Government has declared the amelioration of 
this problem a top priority. The Constitution stipulates the right to 
social security and welfare aid assistance for the temporarily 
unemployed, although in practice such assistance is often late.
    The Labor Code provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours with at 
least one 24-hour rest period per week. The MLSP is responsible for 
enforcing both the minimum wage and the standard workweek. Enforcement 
generally is effective in the state sector (although there are reports 
that state-run enterprises fall into arrears on salary payments to 
their employees if the firms incur losses) but is weaker in the 
emerging private sector.
    A national labor safety program exists, with standards established 
by the Labor Code. The Constitution states that employees are entitled 
to healthy and nonhazardous working conditions. The MLSP is responsible 
for enforcing these provisions. Conditions in many cases worsened due 
to budget stringencies and a growing private sector that labor 
inspectors do not yet supervise effectively. Protective clothing is 
often absent from hazardous areas (goggles for welders, helmets for 
construction workers, etc.), since employers often imply that payment 
for such measures would have to be deducted from the overall budget 
used to pay workers' wages. The overall standard of living of workers 
stabilized in 1998 after suffering a severe downturn during the 
economic crisis of late 1996 and early 1997. The pervasive economic 
crisis and imminent, long-overdue privatizations continue to create a 
heightened fear of unemployment, leading to a reluctance on the part of 
workers to pursue wage and safety demands. In a positive sign, new 
legislation passed in during the year mandated that employers set up 
joint employer/labor health and safety committees to monitor workplace 
conditions. These committees are starting to be organized at many 
workplaces. The effectiveness of these committees is not yet apparent.
    Under the Labor Code, employees have the right to remove themselves 
from work situations that present a serious or immediate danger to life 
or health without jeopardizing their continued employment. However, in 
practice refusal to work in situations with relatively high accident 
rates or associated chronic health problems would result in the loss of 
employment for many workers.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--In 1997 the Government enacted a law 
against trafficking in women; however, trafficking in women and girls 
is a serious problem. A 1997 amendment to the Penal Code on trafficking 
in women introduced longer prison sentences (to existing kidnaping 
penalties already in force) in those cases where the victim is under 18 
years of age, is offered to another person for sexual abuse, or is 
trafficked abroad for sexual abuse. However, no suspected traffickers 
have been brought to trial, possibly because victims are afraid to 
confront their former criminal controllers when there are no 
government-sponsored programs to assist or protect victims of 
trafficking. Some judges and prosecutors also report that they feared 
reprisals from organized crime figures. The Government created two 
police units specifically to address the problem of trafficking in 
persons. One is part of the border police and the other is in the 
Ministry of Interior's organized crime fighting agency. High-level 
Ministry of Interior officials cooperated closely with foreign 
governments and the International Organization for Migration to support 
a research project and information campaign to combat trafficking.
    La Strada, a Netherlands-based NGO, reports that Bulgarian women 
constitute one of the largest groups of victims of forced prostitution 
in Western and Central Europe. Approximately 10,000 Bulgarian women 
currently may be involved in international trafficking operations. This 
is a very lucrative business for Bulgarian criminal organizations, and 
there have been unconfirmed reports of local or police involvement in 
trafficking in some areas. Victims of trafficking range from those who 
were duped into the belief that they would have good and respectable 
employment, to those who expected to work as prostitutes but were 
unprepared for the degree of violence and exploitation to which they 
would be subjected. A factor contributing to the high number of 
trafficking victims from the country is the high unemployment rate 
among young women who face limited opportunities in a relatively 
patriarchal society. Furthermore, because it may be very difficult for 
young women to obtain visas to work in Western Europe, false job 
agencies that promise to simplify the process can be very successful in 
luring trafficking victims. The process of transforming girls into 
prostitutes generally takes place before they even leave the country. 
The women typically are taken to a large town, isolated, beaten, and 
subjected to severe physical and psychological torture. Some 
trafficking victims from countries to the east are kept in Bulgaria for 
several weeks where they are subjected to psychological and physical 
abuse to make them more submissive before they are shipped to their 
destination points. Once the women leave the country, their identity 
documents are taken away, and they find themselves forced to work as 
prostitutes in cities across Europe. Victims report that traffickers 
took away their passports and visas, forced them to stay illegally in 
countries, and made them more vulnerable to prosecution in foreign 
countries. The women may be required to pay back heavy financial debts 
to the agency that helped them depart the country, leaving them in 
virtual indentured servitude. Traffickers punish women severely for 
acts of disobedience. Some victims have returned to the country with 
numbers branded into their skin. Traffickers also use threats against 
the women's families and family reputations to ensure obedience. 
According to some reports, some 3,500 women are trafficked to Poland, 
thousands to the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, while others are 
trafficked to Germany, Belgium, Canada, Serbia-Montenegro, Romania, 
Hungary, FYROM, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey. The northeast and 
southwest border regions are where most trafficking occurs, since women 
are sent more easily to former Socialist countries with less strict 
visa requirements. In 1998 Polish authorities deported 44 women, who 
were working as prostitutes, most from Bulgaria. In Poland there is a 
growing market for young girls, as young as 12 or 13 years old, due to 
the perception that younger prostitutes are less likely to have 
sexually transmitted diseases. Commonly girls are given 15 condoms at 
the start of the day and told to make use of all of them before 
returning. At a rate of $10 (40 PLN) per sexual encounter, the girls 
are expected to bring back $150 (600 PLN). If they do not, they are 
beaten and sent out again the next day. Women reportedly have been 
trafficked into Bulgaria from the former Soviet Union and FYROM, also 
for forced prostitution. The country is also a transit point for 
traffickers bringing women to Greece.
    The AA reported 59 cases of trafficking in women during the year.
    Technical and bureaucratic obstacles hamper governmental assistance 
to female victims of violence. Many victims of trafficking and forced 
prostitution are too young to have worked previously; the lack of 
previous work experience disqualifies them from receiving social 
security assistance. If they are runaways with no registered address to 
which they can return, they are ineligible for humanitarian assistance. 
Victims are not encouraged to file complaints, as there is no mechanism 
in place to protect witnesses. Furthermore, societal attitudes and 
prevailing moral stigmas tend to ensure that their situation is either 
unmentioned or criticized. There is one NGO-sponsored 24-hour hot line 
for women in crisis, including victims of trafficking, with trained 
volunteers as well as professional therapists to counsel victims. The 
NGO also coordinates with government agencies and other NGO's to find 
assistance for trafficking victims.
    During the year the Government showed encouraging signs of taking 
this problem more seriously by confronting it in a multiagency effort, 
but this campaign remained in its early stages at year's end.
                                 ______
                                 

                                CROATIA

    The Republic of Croatia is in principle a constitutional 
parliamentary democracy, with a powerful presidency. President Franjo 
Tudjman was reelected in 1997 to a second 5-year term in an election 
that observers considered ``fundamentally flawed.'' President Tudjman 
and the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) had maintained power 
since independence in 1991 by using the party's majority position to 
deny opposition parties the ability to compete on free and equal terms 
in elections. The HDZ agreed in November to hold new parliamentary 
elections in January 2000. President Tudjman died in December, and 
Parliament Speaker Vlatko Pavletic was named acting President until 
presidential elections, which were scheduled to be held by February 
2000. The President serves as head of state and commander of the armed 
forces, chairs the influential National Defense and Security Council, 
nominates the Prime Minister who leads the Government, and approves 
certain appointments in local and regional government. During the year, 
the extensive constitutional powers of the presidency, the blurring of 
the roles and functions of the HDZ party with those of the government 
and the presidency, HDZ control of television and the continuing 
concentration of power within the one-party central Government combined 
to make the country's nominally democratic system in reality 
authoritarian. However, on January 3, 2000 the ruling HDZ party lost 
generally well-conducted parliamentary elections to an opposition 
coalition. The judiciary is nominally independent; however, it suffers 
from political influence and bureaucratic inefficiency.
    The Ministry of Interior oversees the civilian national police, and 
the Ministry of Defense oversees the military and military police. The 
national police have primary responsibility for internal security but, 
in times of disorder, the Government may call on the army to provide 
security. The civilian authorities generally maintain effective control 
of the professional security forces, although the police sometimes 
committed serious human rights abuses.
    The transition to a market-based, free enterprise economy is 
proceeding slowly. While agriculture is mostly in private hands and the 
number of small enterprises is increasing, industry and media 
enterprises are largely either still controlled by the State or 
deliberately were transferred in nontransparent, noncompetitive 
processes to individuals sympathetic to the ruling party. Unemployment 
remained high at 19 percent, and much higher in the areas affected by 
the war, and the standard of living for most of the population has yet 
to recover to prewar levels. The economy showed underlying weakness 
throughout the year in most industrial sectors, particularly in 
banking, which continued to be characterized by very low liquidity and 
serious losses due to bad loans, which in turn have caused bank 
closures, squeezing hundreds of thousands of depositors, employees, and 
small entrepreneurs.
    The Government's human rights record remained poor; although 
improvement was noted in certain areas, serious problems continued in 
others. The Government's conduct of the flawed 1995 elections seriously 
limited citizens' right to change their government peacefully, although 
it agreed to hold parliamentary elections in January 2000 according to 
provisions of the Constitution. Police occasionally beat persons. The 
Government did not always respect due process provisions for arrest and 
detention. Lengthy pretrial detention is a problem, especially for 
ethnic Serbs indicted for war crimes. The judicial system is subject to 
political influence, and the court system suffers from such a severe 
backlog of cases that the right of citizens to address their concerns 
in court is impaired seriously. Cases of interest to the ruling party 
are processed expeditiously, while others languish in court, further 
calling into question the independence of the judiciary. The courts 
sometimes deny citizens fair trials. The Government at times infringed 
on citizens' privacy rights.
    The Government restricted press freedom, using the courts and 
administrative bodies selectively to shut down or restrain newspapers, 
radio, and television stations critical of the Government or simply 
outside of its control. A new telecommunications law, passed in June, 
in part addressed the concerns of independent radio and television 
broadcasters, however the HDZ party was to retain considerable 
influence over the administrative councils and the government-owned 
radio and television broadcaster for several years. Parliament failed 
to pass legislation governing the conduct of state-owned television and 
radio, resulting in campaign coverage for parliamentary elections held 
in January 2000 that blatantly favored the ruling HDZ party. Government 
intimidation including libel charges induced self-censorship by 
journalists; some 900 criminal and civil cases against journalists were 
ongoing, with legal costs for defendants mounting. There were incidents 
of overt censorship of the electronic media. The Government at times 
restricted freedom of assembly and circumscribed freedom of association 
with a law that prohibited groups from forming unless expressly 
authorized to do so by means of an intrusive registration process, 
although there were no reports that the Government used this law to 
hinder any organization during the year. The Government used the 
manipulation of laws, harassment, economic pressure, and its almost 
total control of the electronic media to control the political process. 
The Government's record of cooperation with international human rights 
and monitoring organizations was mixed: It cooperated with some 
requests from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former 
Yugoslavia (ICTY) but refused to comply with others, including the 
ICTY's search for evidence on alleged crimes committed during the 
Croatian military operations ``Flash'' and ``Storm'' in 1995, and its 
request to conduct a field investigation in the country. The 
implementation of government programs promulgated in 1998 for the 
return to the country of refugee citizens (mostly ethnic Serbs) and the 
restitution of their homes proceeded very slowly in many areas because 
of local government intransigence, unhelpful influence at the national 
level, and bureaucratic and legal confusion.
    Violence and discrimination against women remained problems. The 
Government discriminates against Muslims. Ethnic minorities, 
particularly Serbs as well as Roma, faced continued serious 
discrimination. Government commitments to foster reconciliation among 
ethnic groups have not been met. While some progress was made, ethnic 
tensions in the formerly occupied areas reignited during the year. 
Abuses including ethnic-motivated harassment, assaults, and murders 
continued to occur. Police performance was generally satisfactory, but 
in many cases where the victim was an ethnic Serb, the police either 
did not investigate thoroughly or failed to take effective action 
against the criminal activity. There were continued departures of 
ethnic Serb citizens from the Danubian region (Eastern Slavonia). Poor 
economic conditions were a key reason for these departures and the 
Government did very little to encourage economic development in the 
region. Moreover, the Government not only failed to take steps to 
ensure a peaceful reintegration of the area, it often stoked tensions 
over exhumations of missing persons and housing for returnees, thereby 
compounding the region's problems. Housing and employment regulations 
were administered in a manner biased against ethnic Serbs. There were 
occasional instances of trafficking in women through the country.
                        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 killings by government officials.
    There were three ethnically motivated killings of ethnic Serbs 
during the year (see Section 5).
    Of the many major crimes committed by both sides during the 
conflict, the Government has been much more vigorous in the prosecution 
of those committed by ethnic Serbs than those committed by ethnic 
Croats. It has been only reluctantly cooperative regarding possible war 
crimes associated with the Croatian military operations ``Flash'' and 
``Storm'' in 1995. In April the Croatian Helsinki Committee released a 
report stating that at least 410 Serb civilians died during the August 
1995 operation ``Storm.'' A September report issued by the Government 
indicated that criminal charges have been brought in 3,978 cases 
associated with ``Flash'' and ``Storm.'' However, this number has not 
been confirmed independently by the ICTY, only 13 of these cases 
resulted in substantial prison sentences, and none of those convicted 
were senior officers. In September the Government refused to submit to 
the jurisdiction of the ICTY regarding these operations unless the ICTY 
were to convene a special chamber to rule on the issue. In August one 
(of two) ICTY indictees was transferred to the Hague. The extradition 
of the second indictee still was pending at year's end due to his poor 
health (see Section 4). In the Danubian region, five ethnic Serbs were 
convicted in May of war crimes in the ``Sodolovci'' case on very weak 
evidence; however, the Supreme Court reversed their convictions in 
November. Croatian military and paramilitary members involved in 
murders in Pakracka Poljana in 1991 were acquitted or sentenced to time 
served (see Section 1.e.).
    Progress was made on the exhumation and identification of bodies at 
a number of sites in the Danubian region. Throughout the country, the 
bodies of 3,129 victims have been exhumed from mass and individual 
graves since the war (see Section 1.b.).
    Dinko Sakic, commander of Croatia's Jasenovac concentration camp in 
1944, was convicted in October of crimes against humanity and sentenced 
to 20 years' imprisonment, the maximum sentence. Sakic was extradited 
from Argentina in 1998.
    b. Disappearance.--There were no reports of politically motivated 
disappearances.
    Government figures in December showed that 1,658 persons (mostly 
ethnic Croats) still were missing in cases unresolved from the 1991-95 
military conflict. However, this number does not reflect an additional 
approximately 900 persons (mostly ethnic Serbs) believed to be missing 
from 1995, which were reported to the Government of the Federal 
Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) or to international organizations. There 
has been significant progress on the recovery and identification of the 
remains of ethnic Croats; however, efforts to identify persons reported 
missing after mid-1995 (primarily ethnic Serbs) were hampered by 
political and bureaucratic obstacles. Progress was made on the 
exhumation and identification of bodies at a number of sites in the 
Danubian region (eastern Slavonia), including a well in Vukovar where 
10 female bodies were located in August and a site in Ilok where 30 
bodies were recovered in September. Throughout the country, 3,129 
victims have been exhumed from mass and individual graves since the 
war, 81 percent of whom have been identified, and 53 percent of whom 
were civilians. At a March conference with government officials from 
Bosnia-Herzegovina and the FRY, the Government agreed to set up a 
subcommission on missing persons for the Danubian region and to hold 
regular meetings with FRY officials on missing persons. In December the 
Danubian subcommission finally became operational. There were no 
subsequent bilateral meetings with FRY officials after March in part 
due to the disruption caused by the NATO campaign in Kosovo.
    c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment.--The Constitution prohibits torture, maltreatment, or cruel 
or degrading punishment; and there were occasional credible reports 
that police beat persons and that these cases were not always 
investigated properly.
    According to press reports in August, ethnic Croatian police 
officers in the Baranja region beat Roma. According to a Roma rights 
nongovernmental organization (NGO), in one incident an ethnic Croatian 
police officer allegedly beat a Rom and threatened him at gunpoint. The 
Rom reportedly filed a complaint against the officer.
    In April during tense contract negotiations with Croatian 
railroads' management, the vice president of the Locomotive Engineers 
Union reportedly was beaten severely with metal bars by unknown 
assailants (see Section 6.a.).
    According to press reports, in June an opposition Socialist 
Worker's Party head reported that unidentified assailants hit him in 
the head with a gun, for which he was hospitalized. According to the 
individual, this was the fourth or fifth such attack he suffered in the 
previous 12 months.
    Ethnic minorities reportedly were beaten by unknown assailants in 
the Danubian region (see Section 5). According to press reports, 
unknown persons threw bombs at Romani houses in Vardarci. Roma 
allegedly reported the incidents to police, but no suspects were found.
    Full control of the police in the Danubian region reverted to the 
Government in 1998, and the role of police monitoring was assumed by 
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The 
OSCE reported that overall police performance was satisfactory. Leaders 
of the ethnic Serb community observed that the police generally 
conducted themselves well, and that in the Danubian region it was the 
judiciary that was more often responsible for failures in the legal 
system. Lack of police training and occasionally fear by police to 
carry out their duties were ongoing problems. In some cases, 
particularly where the victim of a crime was an ethnic Serb, police 
investigations were not thoroughly conducted. In the Danubian region 
monitors noted that police occasionally called ethnic Serbs to police 
stations for ``voluntary informative talks,'' which amounted to brief 
warrantless detentions intended to harass Serb citizens.
    Prison conditions meet minimum international standards. Jails are 
crowded, but not excessively so, and family visits and access to 
counsel are generally available, albeit not consistently at all phases 
of the criminal proceedings (see Section 1.d.).
    The Government permits prison visits by human rights monitors.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--The Constitution 
contains the provision to protect the legal rights of all accused 
persons, but the Government does not always respect due process 
provisions for arrest and detention. Police normally obtain arrest 
warrants by presenting evidence of probable cause to an investigative 
magistrate. Police may carry out arrests without a warrant if they 
believe a suspect might flee, destroy evidence, or commit other crimes. 
Such cases are not uncommon. The police then have 24 hours in which to 
justify their decision before a magistrate. Inspectors working under 
the auspices of the Ministry of Finance (the so-called ``financial 
police'') do not require a warrant in order to enter premises and 
examine records, actions that can lead to the unilateral shutdown of 
the organization in question in advance of any due process (see Section 
2.a.).
    Detainees must be given access to an attorney of their choice 
within 24 hours of their arrest; if they have none and are charged with 
a crime for which the sentence is over 10 years' imprisonment, the 
investigative magistrate appoints the defense counsel. The 
investigative magistrate must, within 48 hours of the arrest, decide 
whether sufficient cause exists to hold a person in custody pending 
further investigation. Investigative detention usually lasts from a few 
days to a few weeks, but the Supreme Court may extend the deadline (for 
a total period of not more than 6 months) in exceptional cases. Once 
the investigation is complete, detainees are released on their own 
recognizance pending trial, unless the crime is a serious offense, the 
accused are considered a public danger, or the court believes that they 
may flee.
    However, persons held under investigation sometimes were denied the 
right to have an attorney present during all parts of the investigative 
stage or appeal of investigative detention. During the year, suspects 
were allowed greater access to attorneys during the investigative 
stage, and fewer complaints were noted. In practice detainees generally 
are bound over for investigation unless it is clear that no case exists 
against them. There have been several cases of lengthy pretrial 
detention, including individuals who are awaiting the prosecutor's 
appeal of their acquittal. While there are provisions for posting bail 
after charges are brought, the practice is not common. The 
International Committee of the Red Cross in September counted 72 ethnic 
Serbs in detention for acts related to the conflicts in 1991-95; of 
these only 37 had received final convictions, while the rest were in 
various stages of their judicial processes.
    The arrest in June of former intelligence official Miroslav 
Separovic appeared to be politically motivated; Separovic allegedly 
leaked state secrets to the press that resulted in a newspaper article 
on politically motivated fixing of soccer matches by intelligence 
agents. The charges against Separovic were dropped in August (see 
Section 2.a.).
    The Government's application of the 1996 amnesty act for rebel 
Serbs remained problematic. Confusion arose from the fact that the 
Government initially issued a list of 13,575 persons who were given 
amnesty from indictments for rebellion during the military conflict, 
absent the appearance of new and credible evidence of war crimes, as 
well as a list of 25 individuals who were indicted for war crimes. 
During the year, the Government issued at least 91 new war crimes 
indictments, both individual and collective, for ethnic Serbs whose 
names appear on the amnesty list, claiming that they were based upon 
new and credible evidence. However, international monitors questioned 
the credibility of the evidence and the transparency of the process. In 
several cases, charges were reworded so that offenses that were 
eligible for amnesty were reinstated either as war crimes or common 
crimes. These indictments were issued without previously agreed-upon 
notification to the ICTY. In March the Government claimed that the list 
of persons amnestied had grown to 18,314; however, the identities of 
the 4,739 additions to the list were not announced. These events 
created great uncertainty among ethnic Serbs, because some who wished 
to return to the country were unwilling to do so until they knew that 
they would not be arrested, and others who believed themselves 
amnestied later were arrested.
    In separate cases in April and July, Serb police officers in Borovo 
Selo and in Ilok (both in the Danubian region) were arrested for war 
crimes dating to 1991 and 1993 respectively, despite the fact that both 
previously were cleared for police duty by the Ministry of Interior. 
The Government indicated that there was new evidence justifying their 
arrests. In September both still were detained pending trial. In 
addition, in at least five other cases, ethnic Serb police officers in 
the region fled to the FRY when they learned that they were the subject 
of investigations. NGO's noted that even a small number of such 
apparently political cases created serious uncertainty among the 700 
Serb police officers in the region. The appeal of Milos Horvat 
(sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment for genocide in 1997 based on what 
international monitors described as questionable standards of evidence) 
was heard by the Supreme Court in December 1998, 18 months after it was 
filed. In a June decision, the Supreme Court rejected Horvat's appeal 
of his conviction and also rejected the prosecutor's appeal of the 5-
year sentence as too short.
    The Constitution prohibits the exile of citizens. In 1998 the 
Government established procedures by which Croatian Serb refugees who 
fled the country in 1995 might regulate their citizenship status, 
obtain citizenship documentation, return to Croatia, and reclaim their 
property. Implementation of these procedures is moving forward; 
however, progress has been slow and uneven (see Section 2.d.). During 
the year, 8,625 persons who were refugees in the FRY and Bosnia-
Herzegovina were able to return to Croatia. Government figures indicate 
that overall since the conflict, of approximately 250,000 ethnic Serbs 
who fled their homes, 33,000 have returned from abroad and 27,000 have 
returned to their homes after being displaced within the country. An 
October survey by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) 
estimated that the actual number of Serb returnees may be much higher 
than these government figures indicate. In a positive development, the 
Government opened a full-time consulate in Banja Luka, Bosnia-
Herzegovina to facilitate documentation for citizens in Bosnia. The 
UNHCR and NGO's reported that the Croatian Embassy in Belgrade 
experienced lengthy delays in providing citizenship and travel 
documents to citizens (overwhelmingly ethnic Serbs) wishing to return 
to Croatia. Ethnic Serbs within Croatia requiring documentation also 
report persistent difficulties and delays, and contradictory 
requirements by local officials charged with issuing documents.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--The judiciary is nominally 
independent; however, it suffers from political influence. In practice 
bureaucratic inefficiency mars the system; the court system has a 
backlog of over 1 million cases.
    The judicial system consists of municipal and district courts, the 
Administrative Court, and the Supreme Court. The independent 
Constitutional Court both determines the constitutionality of laws, 
governmental acts, and elections and serves as the court of final 
appeal for individual cases. A parallel commercial court system 
adjudicates commercial and contractual disputes. The State Judicial 
Council (consisting of a president and 14 members) is a body 
independent of both the judiciary and the Ministry of Justice charged 
with both the appointment and discipline, including removal, of judges, 
court presidents, and public prosecutors. The upper house of Parliament 
nominates persons for membership on the Council, and the lower house 
elects the members for 8-year terms. The 11 judges of the 
Constitutional Court are elected for 8-year terms in the same manner, 
while all other judges are appointed for life.
    Judges are prohibited by the Constitution from being members of any 
political party. Nonetheless, the HDZ party wielded considerable 
influence over the judiciary, and critics charged that the State 
Judicial Council (whose members were appointed by the HDZ-dominated 
Parliament) was a political tool of the executive branch. While the 
Council is authorized to act independently in the appointment and 
review of judges, it occasionally has defied Constitutional Court 
rulings. Moreover, the terms of 8 of the 11 Constitutional Court 
justices expired in December, and the HDZ reached an agreement with the 
opposition parties to replace them with judges selected for their 
political loyalties rather than professional merit. For example, 
hardline HDZ supporter Vice Vukojevic who is known for his nationalist 
rhetoric was appointed to the Constitutional Court in December. Several 
prominent lawsuits to annul the new appointments to the Court on 
technical grounds were rejected. Observers believe that this agreement 
could yield a new court that is less independent and less qualified 
than the previous court. The outgoing president of the Constitutional 
Court publicly criticized the process by which the new court judges 
were selected and noted that none of those chosen were career judges.
    The severe shortage of judges prevalent in recent years was 
reduced. However, a greater problem was that many of the newly 
appointed judges were inexperienced and did not consistently apply the 
rule of law. While the ruling HDZ party may not have intervened 
directly in judicial deliberations, the newly hired judges were 
appointed by, and often were sympathetic to, the HDZ. Judges at times 
made decisions in a nontransparent manner seemingly at odds with the 
evidence or the law. The judicial system suffers from a massive 
backlog, estimated at 750,000 to more than 1 million cases, some dating 
back 30 years or more. Cases involving average citizens may drag on for 
years, while criminal libel suits or other cases affecting high-level 
government officials are heard within weeks under ``urgent 
proceedings'' (see Section 2.a.). According to the president of the 
Association of Croatian Judges, the Government failed to provide the 
financial means necessary for the regular operation of the courts. The 
case backlogs in Zagreb, Rijeka, and Split are compounded by government 
cutbacks on telephone, gas, water, and electricity throughout the 
country.
    Although the Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial 
and a variety of due process rights in the courts, the courts sometimes 
denied citizens fair trials. Local authorities often refused to 
implement court decisions. For example, little or no progress was made 
in numerous cases of illegal evictions in which the legal owner had a 
positive court decision, yet was unable to gain access to his property. 
Judicial decisions overwhelmingly favored ethnic Croats in property 
claims involving returning refugees and displaced persons. 
Approximately 22 percent of all claims submitted to a court were 
decided in favor of a non-Croat claimant. In those cases in which the 
court ruled in favor of a non-Croat, only a handful of judicial orders 
for the eviction of a Croat occupant of a Serb-owned home have ever 
been carried out by the police (see Section 1.f.). Many of these cases 
involve either current or former members of the Croatian military or 
police forces, and local authorities refuse to act against them on 
behalf of the rightful owner. The only recourse for the defendant is to 
return to court to demand implementation of the first decision, a time-
consuming and costly procedure that still may not result in 
implementation. Despite an April Constitutional Court ruling 
overturning a Zagreb city decree that had restricted public protests in 
the city, local officials continued to enforce the decree until a new 
law was passed in October (see Section 2.b.). Cases in the Danubian 
region (Eastern Slavonia) in which the plaintiff was an ethnic Croat 
were heard and decided in a matter of days or weeks, and judicial 
orders were carried out expeditiously, sometimes at the expense of the 
legal rights of Serbs. However, cases in which the plaintiff was an 
ethnic Serb often dragged on for months or years.
    The Government continued to apply questionable legal standards in 
the implementation of the general amnesty adopted in 1996. There was 
credible evidence that crimes for which persons should have received 
amnesty were recategorized as either common crimes or war crimes (see 
Section 1.d.).
    In May two cases starkly highlighted the contrasting treatment of 
ethnic Serb and ethnic Croat war crimes defendants. The county court in 
Osijek in the Danubian region convicted five ethnic Serbs (the 
``Sodolovci group'') of crimes against civilian populations for 
participating in artillery attacks against civilian targets in 1991 and 
1992 and sentenced them to terms of imprisonment ranging from 8 to 15 
years. The indictments were for a generalized series of attacks, and 
the evidence did not conclusively connect the defendants to the 
attacks. The case focused on the fact that the defendants were members 
of a unit known to have been active in the area in the given time 
period. During the course of the trial Justice Minister Zvonimir 
Separovic visited the Osijek county court, discussed ``current legal 
issues'' with the president of the court, Petar Klajic, and other 
judges, and made public statements asserting that the court system 
would not be subject to foreign pressure. Only 2 days after Separovic's 
visit, the court handed down its verdict. The verdict was criticized 
sharply in the ethnic Serb community. In November the Supreme Court 
overturned the verdicts and freed the defendants. Also in May, six 
ethnic Croats were released in the ``Pakracka Poljana'' case (four were 
acquitted and two convicted of minor offenses and sentenced to time 
served) for crimes against Serbs in Western Slavonia in 1991. This was 
the first major war crimes case brought against ethnic Croats for 
actions against Serbs. The judgements were reached despite a 1997 
newspaper interview by defendant Miroslav Bajramovic in which he 
personally admitted to killing 70 Serbs in Pakracka Poljana and also 
implicated other defendants as well as Tomislav Mercep, a well-known 
hardline political figure who was never charged. Although Bajramovic's 
alleged crimes were well-known to the Government, charges were brought 
against him only in response to public criticism over the newspaper 
interview. The interview was not introduced as evidence during the 
trial, nor was any real effort made to obtain evidence or secure 
witness testimony to support the charges.
    There were no reports of political prisoners.
    f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--At times the Government infringed on these rights. The 
Constitution declares the home inviolable. Only a court may issue a 
search warrant, which must state the justification for the search. 
Police may enter a home without a warrant or the owner's consent only 
if necessary to enforce an arrest warrant, apprehend a suspect, or 
prevent serious danger to life or property. While the authorities 
generally complied with these norms, there were notable exceptions in 
which the Government did not respect private property in practice. 
Despite developing a mechanism by which property could, in theory, be 
restored to the original owner, the Government failed to implement this 
program vigorously. Furthermore, there are no provisions for those 
individuals, primarily citizens of Serb ethnicity, who lost tenancy 
rights to their dwellings during the war to return to their previous 
homes.
    There were many press reports and claims by a number of prominent 
figures that authorities authorized an extensive campaign of 
wiretapping against the independent media, opposition political 
figures, and others (see Section 2.a.). Leaks indicated the use of 
wiretapping by government intelligence services. In February the weekly 
Nacional reportedly filed charges against head of the Office for the 
Protection of the Constitutional Order and/or the Minister of Interior 
Ivan Penic for wiretapping and illegal surveillance activities of its 
journalists. An opposition Member of Parliament who was another alleged 
target of surveillance called for the President's intervention in the 
matter, the resignation of Interior Minister Penic, and the creation of 
a commission to investigate the work of the intelligence services. 
Penic reported that the Ministry of Interior began an investigation 
into these allegations of illegal surveillance activities. In December 
after claims that the intelligence services had bugged the offices or 
telephone of acting President and Speaker of the Parliament Vlatko 
Pavletic, a parliamentary commission concluded that this was not the 
case. However, Paveletic called for a curtailment of the conditions 
under which the intelligence services legally may use wiretaps. Later 
that month former Croatian Intelligence Service Director Miroslav 
Separovic published the names of more public figures who he claims were 
monitored illegally by the intelligence services at the request of HDZ 
hardliners. The list includes opposition members as well as HDZ 
members.
    Despite a 1997 Constitutional Court ruling that several elements of 
the Law on the Temporary Takeover of Specified Property (LTTP) were 
unconstitutional, the vast majority of Serb property owners who fled 
homes that were later occupied by ethnic Croats remained unable to 
access their property. A 1998 program for the return of refugees and 
displaced persons, which included mechanisms for property restitution 
and reconstruction, was implemented very slowly and only a handful of 
cases of property restitution were recorded by year's end, as both 
national and local authorities declined to take steps to displace 
temporary occupants in favor of the original owners, as stipulated in 
the return program. Further, only a handful of claims by ethnic Serbs 
for reconstruction have been considered. Despite orders from the 
national Government, local authorities (including local housing 
commissions) often did not take steps to regulate permits authorizing 
or revoking occupancy rights or to initiate lawsuits against 
individuals who refused to vacate occupied premises, a situation that 
remained largely unchanged throughout the year. Numerous returning 
ethnic Serb displaced persons and refugees continued to remain shut out 
of their homes, although in many cases the occupier's house had been 
reconstructed and there was no impediment to his return. In general in 
such cases, the Government failed to furnish reconstructed houses with 
basic utilities. Housing commissions were often purposefully 
dysfunctional, failed to resolve housing cases, and ignored judicial 
decisions. In Knin the housing commission resolved less than one dozen 
property disputes and allowed a 500-case backlog to accumulate. One of 
the very few cases of ``multiple occupancy'' (in which a family 
occupies more than one home, thus preventing rightful homeowners from 
returning) that was resolved during the year occurred in the Sisak area 
where an ethnic Croat kept his dog in the otherwise empty home of an 
ethnic Serb. Local authorities refused to evict the dog until July, 
after U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata and other 
Western diplomats personally raised the issue with the highest levels 
of the Government. Cases of disregard for the Government's return 
program and its legal provisions were common.
    Throughout the year, the OSCE and local human rights organizations 
reported forcible evictions of ethnic Serbs from Croat-owned homes 
without receiving alternative accommodations on an almost weekly basis. 
Police response was mixed, due in part to conflicting instructions from 
higher authorities. Despite direct intervention from senior government 
officials to halt the evictions and clarify police instructions, 
homeowners were allowed to harass occupants until they were, in effect, 
forced to leave. In many cases, the actions of local political 
officials in the Danubian region called into question their 
impartiality. The housing commissions in the Danubian region (where 
temporary occupants were overwhelmingly ethnic Serb) were more active 
and effective in returning property to the original homeowners than 
were housing commissions in other regions (where the temporary 
occupants were primarily ethnic Croats). In Beli Manistir, OSCE 
officials and an NGO noted that an unofficial housing commission, 
headed by the deputy mayor and supported by the local police, 
improperly evicted several ethnic Serbs. Materials to repair and 
reconstruct war-damaged housing were being distributed in a manner that 
discriminated against Serbs, and villages where Serbs were a majority 
were being reconstructed at a slower pace than Croat-majority villages, 
despite the adoption in 1998 of a reconstruction program which aimed to 
ensure nondiscriminatory provision of such assistance.
    An ongoing problem was the continued occupation of homes belonging 
to Croatian Serbs by refugees from neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina and 
the FRY, as well as ``priority category'' ethnic Croat citizens, i.e., 
active duty or former members of the military, widows, and orphans. 
Ethnic Croats wishing to return to the Danubian region also were unable 
to return to homes occupied by Serbs. Many Serb returnees were unable 
to move into looted and devastated homes that the Government defined as 
habitable. Of the total 7,123 applications for repossession of property 
recorded by the government Office for Displaced Persons and Refugees 
(ODPR) at the end of August, less than one-fourth were listed as 
returned to their owners.
    No progress was made to resolve the thousands of cases of citizens 
(mostly ethnic Serbs) who, due to their absence for more than 6 months 
during the war, lost their occupancy rights. Ethnic Serbs were affected 
disproportionately because no mechanism existed by which they could 
return to the country in order to claim their property or because they 
had lived in the occupied parts of the country and missed the chance to 
purchase their previous apartments.
    There were no reports that the Ministry of Defense arbitrarily 
revoked the tenancy rights of individuals who had lived in their 
apartments for decades. Split resident Hasim Begovic fully recovered 
his apartment late in the year.
    Incidents of grenade attacks against property and arson related to 
housing disputes were reported during the year (see Section 5).
    The Constitution provides for the secrecy and safety of personal 
data, and this provision generally was respected. Unlike previous 
years, there were no further reports during the year that requests made 
by ethnic Serbs to return to their original homes in the formerly 
occupied areas were used by individuals to vandalize or in some cases 
destroy the property in order to prevent the Serbs from returning. 
There were persistent reports to international organizations, although 
fewer in number than in 1998, that local housing commissions allowed 
authorizations for temporary accommodation to be transferred among 
temporary users, thus keeping a residence occupied even after the 
original owner's intention to return was known.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
    a. Freedom of Speech and Press.--The Constitution provides for 
freedom of thought and expression, specifically including freedom of 
the press and other media, speech, and public expression, as well as 
the free establishment of institutions of public communication; 
however, the Government restricted these rights in practice. The 
Government controls or influences much of the print media, controls or 
influences most of the electronic media (in particular, television), 
and influences and manipulates the judiciary. All this, combined with 
the Government's continued harassment--through job loss or banishment 
from the airwaves, overt censorship, intimidation, and criminal 
prosecution--of those journalists who criticized the ruling HDZ party, 
stifled many of these freedoms in practice. The Government maintained 
an unofficial campaign of harassment of the independent media 
throughout the year, and more than 300 criminal and 600 civil 
prosecutions of journalists are ongoing, many brought by government 
officials or their close relatives or associates. The law gives the 
public prosecutor the right to appeal an acquittal, thereby potentially 
exposing journalists to double jeopardy. There continued to be reports 
of government wiretapping of some independent journalists (see Section 
1.f.). The new telecommunications law, passed on June 30, created 
opportunities for independent media, most notably by allowing local 
independent radio and television broadcasters to ``network,'' or 
jointly produce and broadcast national programming, for 5 hours per day 
to compete with state-run television. However, the Government continued 
to control and manipulate the regulatory framework and the licensing of 
radio and television. In particular, the ruling party retained the 
ability to select the members of the managing council and the Council 
for Radio and Television for 3- to 5-year terms, and these members are 
to set prices and grant concessions through procedures that are still 
arbitrary and nontransparent.
    Despite continued domestic and international protest, the 
Government took no steps to revise articles of the Penal Code that 
authorize the criminal prosecution of journalists who publish ``state 
secrets'' or insult the honor or dignity of the President, the Prime 
Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, or the Chief justices of either 
the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court. Individuals may 
criticize the Government, although not always without reprisal. On May 
6, a Zagreb court indicted four employees of Zagrebacka Banka for 
leaking confidential bank documents to the press in 1998. The court 
also indicted the reporter who wrote the article, which contained 
details about the undisclosed bank accounts of Ankica Tudjman, the wife 
of the President. There continued to be over 900 libel lawsuits against 
journalists and publishers, the majority continuing from previous 
years, filed by both government officials and private parties. The HDZ-
sponsored laws, both criminal and civil, that permitted these suits 
were adopted in recent years amid criticism that they were overly 
broad. The HDZ has taken no action to amend or modify the laws. While 
defendants sometimes prevailed in such suits, the libel laws remained 
problematic because defending such cases represented a significant and 
ongoing financial and personal hardship for them. The Zagreb county 
court once again acquitted Davor Butkovic, editor of the weekly Globus, 
of criminal liability in March, ending his legal battle, which included 
a Government appeal of an earlier acquittal in 1998, leading to a 
``double jeopardy'' trial for the weekly.
    There are currently some 70 lawsuits (20 criminal cases and 50 
civil cases) filed against the publishers of the independent satirical 
weekly Feral Tribune, with potential damages exceeding $2 million (14 
million kuna) and an unspecified amount of legal and court costs 
involved.
    The ruling party and businesspersons with close ties to it 
continued to maintain a virtual monopoly on printing and distribution 
of magazines and newspapers. Acute financial difficulties stemming from 
poor overall economic conditions created ongoing difficulties for the 
media. The distributor Tisak reached the point of insolvency, failing 
to pay publications, particularly independent publications, thus 
threatening their financial stability. The Tisak debt to independent 
weekly Nacional alone was over $500,000 (nearly 4 million kuna). A 
government bailout plan had not been implemented at year's end. The 
slow pace of the judicial process (see Section 1.e.) makes it extremely 
difficult for these publications to seek timely redress of their 
payment difficulties in the courts. Journals and publications also 
complained that they had little control over where their publications 
were sent, with large quantities at times being sent to remote 
villages, leaving the bigger, urban markets undersupplied.
    In July the editor in chief of the Nacional stated that the 
independent print media, including Nacional, were under attack from the 
Government, which aimed to marginalize or eliminate independent media 
in the period prior to the parliamentary elections. Government 
harassment of Nacional intensified after the weekly ran a June article 
alleging that the Government rigged the Croatian soccer championship on 
orders from President Tudjman. The Ministry of Interior then launched 
an investigation of Nacional employees suspected of publishing a 
``state secret'' and ordered police searches of Nacional offices and 
the homes of editor in chief Ivo Pukanic and his parents. In June 
authorities arrested Nacional's editor for his role in publishing 
alleged state secrets. On June 9, authorities arrested former Croatian 
Intelligence Service Director Miroslav Separovic for allegedly leaking 
``state secrets'' about the soccer matches; authorities dropped the 
charges against Separovic in August (see Section 1.d.). Pukanic also 
was subjected to public death threats from the national soccer team's 
coach as a result of the soccer expose.
    Police surveillance of journalists reportedly continued, with 
Nacional claiming that its journalists were under constant surveillance 
and that both their home and office telephones were tapped (see Section 
1.f.).
    On February 25, two unknown assailants beat a reporter and a 
photographer from the independent daily Jutarnji List. The two 
journalists had been taking photographs of a new house under 
construction that belonged to Assistant Defense Minister General 
Marinko Kresic for which allegedly he did not have a permit. The 
authorities arrested two suspects, and a military police spokesman 
denied that the attackers could have been members of that force.
    The ruling HDZ party's control of the national electronic media 
continued to be pervasive and blatant. The HRT is the only national 
network and is the main source of news for 88 percent of the 
population. It broadcasts on three national television and radio 
channels. Technically under the control of Parliament, the HRT was, in 
practice, run by the ruling HDZ Party. The Government controlled the 
state network through the HRT Council which, like the 
Telecommunications Council, also was dominated by the HDZ. The HRT 
Council directly supervised operations and editorial content of state-
run radio and television, effectively restricting access by opposition 
parties to criticize government policies (see Section 3). During the 
year, the growing realization that the HDZ might lose the upcoming 
parliamentary elections, fueled by polls showing the HDZ trailing, 
caused HDZ hardliners to consolidate their grip on the HRT. HRT 
coverage of the election campaign often was biased in favor of the HDZ 
party, but it improved noticeably over previous elections. A new HRT 
council was named in February, with a chairman who was a member of the 
HDZ party presidency, a new editor in chief who was a member of the HDZ 
main committee, and two new assistants who were HDZ hardliners.
    In August the HRT announced that the news program One Plus One, 
which was subject to government censorship since mid-1998, would be 
cancelled. HRT also cancelled the respected programs of Ivo Loncar and 
Mirjana Rakic, the latter to be replaced with a progovernment 
commentator. The HRT took the program off the air on January 19 for a 
program it planned to broadcast which allegedly would incite ``social 
disorder and violence'' (the program included a pensioner's statement 
that an opposition party leader should be hung, among other things). 
The Telecommunications Council awarded the license for a fourth 
national channel to Nova TV whose owners are identified closely with 
the HDZ party. During the year, the much anticipated reform of the HRT 
law did not occur. This legislation would be a key step for reform of 
electronic media and overall democratization. The electronic media's 
HDZ bias continued to be a concern, although inflammatory language in 
the media that was designed to exacerbate ethnic tensions has decreased 
in recent years.
    Both public and private radio and television stations coexist. The 
June Telecommunications Law permitted ``networking'' by independent 
broadcasters to achieve national coverage. Revenue collection also is 
skewed greatly in favor of the HRT, which receives subsidies from 
government taxes on television (accounting for some two-thirds of the 
HRT's gross annual revenues), as well as some 80 percent of advertising 
revenue. These subsidies create an unfair advantage for the HRT over 
any independent television station that tries to compete, since the 
independents' ability to purchase programming, etc., is far less than 
that of the HRT. Similar problems exist in radio broadcasting. The 
enforcement arm of the Ministry of Finance, the financial police, often 
has been used by the Telecommunications Council to shut down stations 
deemed too critical of the Government, but there were fewer reports of 
such problems during the year. Journalists who sought reform of the HRT 
from within routinely were silenced and in many cases taken off the air 
while still on the HRT payroll.
    Government censorship also influenced the independent media. On 
January 29, the Ministry of Traffic, Communications, and Maritime 
Affairs shut down Adriatic Television (ATV), a Split-based county-
licensed television station. The official reason was that ATV had not 
paid its annual licensing fee of approximately $35,000 (217,000 kuna). 
However, opposition leaders and independent media observers speculate 
that the station was closed because opposition Croatian Social Liberal 
Party leader Drazen Budisa was scheduled to appear on a local program, 
titled, ``Censorship.'' The National Association of Independent 
Television Stations and Forum 21 (an association of independent 
broadcast journalists) protested the decision and noted that while 
nonpayment is a legal basis for shutting down a station, the decision 
was unfair since the economic crisis and high licensing fees were 
destroying the independent electronic media. In February the editor in 
chief and his deputy of a local radio station in Varazdin were fired by 
the station's owners, functionaries of the HDZ party, after an 
interview with a Western diplomat was broadcast. In addition, on the 
day that an independent television station in Split planned to air a 
program with an appearance by an opposition politician, it was pulled 
off the air for nonpayment of its annual licensing fees. The station's 
director, an HDZ member, later cancelled the program.
    Foreign newspapers and journals were available in larger urban 
areas throughout the country, although their high cost (about three 
times the price of local newspapers) made them expensive for most 
persons.
    While academic freedom generally is respected, scholars reported 
that they were reluctant to speak out on political issues. Some 
scientists state that the government exerted subtle pressure on them 
through its control of research funds. In June the Dean of the Faculty 
of Philosophy at the University of Zagreb banned a panel discussion 
organized by a student group on the escalation of violence in the 
country, ostensibly because the panel discussants were not members of 
the academic community and because current political issues were not to 
be discussed at the university because its autonomy must be preserved. 
The Dean stated that such events would continue to be banned in the 
future.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The Constitution 
provides for the right of peaceful assembly; however, the Government at 
times exercised arbitrary control to restrict this right during the 
year, although there were fewer incidents of such reports. The 
Government restricted this right by denying some groups access to 
Zagreb's main square and other gathering places. The lack of a clear 
policy to regulate such events and address questions of security and 
inconvenience, and the fact that HDZ party rallies and other public 
events have been staged regularly at these sites in the past, combined 
to make the government actions appear partisan and nontransparent. A 
new law on assembly that passed in October was only slightly less 
restrictive, since it permitted assembly for registered demonstrations 
at approved locations but did not make transparent the process for 
approving or denying such registration. However, this law was not 
applied in a way that noticeably favored the HDZ Party nor were those 
critical of the Government singled out for denial of permission to 
assemble, particularly in the period before the January 2000 
parliamentary elections.
    Numerous rallies and demonstrations took place throughout the 
country during the year, many of which were led by workers protesting 
poor social conditions and pay. On February 16, some 2,000 workers 
marched in Zagreb. When the group spontaneously decided to march to the 
square in front of the parliament building, where demonstrations are 
prohibited, they were met by some 200 police officers. Several police 
officers were injured, one seriously, in the ensuing scuffle. On March 
31, the Constitutional Court overturned the law on peaceful assembly 
that had granted local governments the authority to decide the location 
of public gatherings. Public gatherings still must be approved in 
advance, but may only be restricted for security reasons, as decided by 
the Ministry of Interior. However, local officials continued to enforce 
the law, and denied access to strategic places in the city. In April 
shortly after the Constitutional Court's ruling, Zagreb authorities 
charged a prominent union leader with a misdemeanor for organizing a 
protest in front of a government building. On June 8, textile workers 
from Duga Resa were blocked from protesting in Zagreb by a large cordon 
of policemen brought into the city from all over the country. 
Approximately 500 police blocked the protesters' passage through side 
streets to prevent them from reaching the main government square.
    The Constitution provides for the right of association; however, 
legislation adopted in 1997 increased the Government's ability to 
restrict this right, although there were no reports that the Government 
used this law to hinder any organization during the year. The 1997 Law 
on Associations gives the Government broad powers to prevent the 
founding of an association and to monitor all aspects of an association 
once founded. There were no reports of the Government abusing this law 
against associations or NGO's during the year, but several NGO's 
observed that the mere process of registering is an intrusive and 
unnecessary form of governmental oversight. All associations of at 
least 10 persons must register their activities. An association's 
activities may be suspended administratively based on only a ``well-
founded'' suspicion that the group's activities contravene the 
Constitution or the law. Until such time as the association proves 
itself innocent in a court of law, the Government can keep it closed 
indefinitely and dispose of its assets. The reregistration process is 
proceeding only slowly, and many local and international NGO's faced 
bureaucratic obstacles. According to the law, in the absence of any 
formal notification to the contrary, an NGO is to consider itself 
reregistered. However, without written confirmation of registration 
from the Ministry of Administration, NGO's face significant obstacles 
in their day-to-day functioning. Reports of harassment by the 
``financial police'' (Finance Ministry officials who do not require a 
warrant in order to enter premises and examine records which can lead 
to the unilateral shutdown of the organization in question in advance 
of any due process) were fewer than in the past. In Osijek a human 
rights NGO was audited after its director took a new position with 
another NGO, for which President Tudjman had publicly expressed 
animosity. In a positive development, the Government established an 
office for NGO's that disbursed funding of approximately $1 million (7 
million kuna).
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution provides for freedom of 
conscience and religion and free public profession of religious 
conviction, and the Government respects these rights in practice. No 
formal restrictions are imposed on religious groups, and all religious 
communities are free to conduct public services and to open and run 
social and charitable institutions. Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox 
Christianity, and Islam are major faiths, and there is a small Jewish 
community.
    Croatian Protestants from a number of denominations and foreign 
clergy and missionaries actively practice and proselytize.
    While there is no official state religion, approximately 85 percent 
of the population are Catholic, and the dividing line between the Roman 
Catholic Church and the State often had been blurred in the past. The 
ruling HDZ party periodically attempted to identify itself more closely 
with the Catholic Church. However, the Church more frequently sought an 
independent role for itself on political issues and was at times openly 
critical of the prevailing political climate. However, the Church has 
taken advantage of HDZ support to work actively to strengthen its 
influence elsewhere, such as in public schools. The head of the 
Catholic Church, Archbishop Josip Bozanic, was active in publicly 
promoting reconciliation and the return of refugees. In March the 
Archbishop met with Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and 
in May he made a strong public challenge to the Government during his 
homily at a Statehood Day Mass attended by President Tudjman. In 
November the Croatian Catholic Bishops' Conference issued a statement 
calling on the faithful to participate in the December parliamentary 
elections and to overcome the ``old, intolerant one-party mentality''.
    Religion and ethnicity are closely intertwined in society, but the 
majority of incidents of discrimination are motivated by ethnicity 
rather than religion (see Section 5). There were persistent reports of 
vandalism to Serb Orthodox cemeteries. The Ministry of Defense employed 
19 Catholic priests to tend to Catholics in the military, but employed 
no Orthodox Christian or Muslim clergy. The Government requires that 
religious training be provided in schools, although attendance is 
optional. Schools are allowed to offer classes in minority religions if 
they fill the necessary quota of minority students. However, lack of 
resources, minority students, and qualified teachers generally impeded 
catechism in minority faiths, so the Catholic catechism was the one 
predominately offered. According to numerous reports, although not 
obligatory, students felt pressured to attend religious training. In a 
positive development in September, the Government instructed public 
schools that reached the minimum quota of Muslim students to sign work 
contracts with Muslim instructors. In the past, Muslim teachers were 
not paid by the Government while Catholic teachers were. Jewish 
officials noted that basic information provided to students about 
Judaism is inaccurate, and their offers to improve the material went 
unheeded. There were several cases in which individual missionaries had 
difficulty in obtaining missionary visas, but it was unclear whether 
this was due to religious discrimination or bureaucratic inefficiency 
and failure by missionaries to fulfill all of the necessary 
requirements. Missionaries do not operate registered schools, but the 
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints provides free English 
lessons, often followed by religious instruction. The Muslim community 
has a secondary school in Zagreb; however, the Ministry of Education 
refuses to recognize the diploma from this school. Although in recent 
years the Government had discriminated against a particular group of 
Muslims in the issuance of citizenship documents, the Government began 
granting citizenship to them during the year. In the area of Topusko 
(in the region formerly occupied by rebel Serbs) most cases have been 
resolved of the approximately 2,500 Muslims who for several years were 
unable to obtain citizenship because their period of residency was 
interrupted by the military conflict.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--The Constitution generally provides for 
these rights, with certain restrictions. All persons must register 
their residence with the local authorities. Under exceptional 
circumstances, the Government legally may restrict the right to enter 
or leave the country if necessary to protect the ``legal order, health, 
rights, or freedoms of others.''
    While there are no reports that the Government revoked citizenship 
for political reasons, the failure to act expeditiously to verify the 
citizenship of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Serbs who fled the 
country after the military actions in 1995 is an ongoing and serious 
concern. The Government in 1998 adopted procedures by which these 
individuals could confirm their citizenship and return to Croatia; 
however, the effects of this step were minimized by continued slow and 
uneven implementation. The Joint Working Group was superceded in 1998 
by the Returns Coordination Committee, which was not very active during 
the year, although observers believe that it could prove useful in 
facilitating returns. There were no reports of cases during the year of 
deportation proceedings against male members of mixed marriages 
involving Muslims. In a positive step, in July the Government opened a 
full-time consulate in Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina and expanded 
consular operations in Belgrade, Serbia to process citizenship 
applications which are being filed at the rate of approximately 500 per 
week. While the wait time in Belgrade for a decision on an application 
improved somewhat late in the year, it was still as long as 3 months in 
some cases.
    A significant number of internally displaced persons remain, 
although not all of these persons are under the Government's direct 
care. While the government reported in September some 77,000 persons 
(50,000 internally displaced and 27,000 refugees, mostly from Bosnia-
Herzegovina and the FRY) with refugee or displaced person status, this 
number does not reflect fully an additional 140,000 former refugees who 
have become citizens of Croatia.
    International monitors and NGO's assess that the rate of ethnic 
Serb departures from the Danubian region was somewhat less than in past 
years. However, monitors had difficulty tracking the departures because 
in January the Government stopped sharing relevant data. The ethnic 
Serb population in the region fell from a prewar number of 70,000 to 
about 50,000 at year's end. Approximately 60,000 persons displaced by 
the conflict fled to the Danubian region from other areas of the 
country, but most of these have since returned home or moved to the 
FRY. About 3,000 displaced persons remain in the region. An estimated 
40,000 persons in the region have emigrated because of poor economic 
conditions combined with discrimination directed at ethnic Serbs. The 
number of Croatian Serbs emigrating to the United Kingdom surged to 
several hundred per month by mid-year, many of whom were assessed to be 
economic migrants. Apparently concerned that its citizens could lose 
visa-exempt travel privileges in Europe, the Government attempted to 
disrupt the emigration. In addition to continuing to issue only one-
time travel documents rather than passports to refugees returning from 
the FRY and Bosnia-Herzegovina, there were persistent reports of 
harassment of departing Serbs by officials at Zagreb airport, including 
delaying passengers until they missed their flights. In November the 
United Kingdom imposed a visa requirement on Croatians entering that 
country. Ethnically motivated incidents directed at ethnic Serbs 
included verbal and legal harassment, forcible evictions, beatings, and 
three murders. During the year in the Danubian region, international 
monitors recorded 1,017 cases of ethnically motivated intimidations and 
housing disputes. This figure included approximately 61 physical 
assaults (see section 5). Within the region, half of all reported 
incidents were reported in the area of Vukovar alone. The village of 
Berak (on the outskirts of Vukovar) was the scene of numerous incidents 
against Serbs during the year, especially after Croat returnees began 
demonstrating in May over the issue of missing persons. In the Danubian 
region, where ethnic Serbs were exempted from military service, there 
were occasional reports that local officials refused to issue passports 
to ethnic Serbs unless they could provide evidence of their military 
service.
    Official government policy was that all citizens were free to 
return to their homes of origin throughout the country. However, in 
practice ethnic Serbs who departed during the military conflict and 
have since returned faced open discrimination and numerous bureaucratic 
obstacles in order to regain their property and the financial and 
health benefits to which all returnees are entitled under the law. In 
September, the OSCE reported that ethnic Serb refugees were generally 
able to return to the country but generally were not able to repossess 
their property. Half of all property repossession cases have been in 
the Danubian region where the Government's return program has been 
implemented selectively and where the majority of property claimants 
were ethnic Croats returning from other areas of the country. Incidents 
of beatings and even arson and bombing attacks against Serbs were 
reported, albeit less frequently than in the previous year (see 
Sections 1.a., 1.c., 1.f., and 5). Discrimination towards ethnic Serbs 
was apparent at all levels of the return process. During the year, over 
70 percent of returns by internally displaced persons were to the 
Danubian region, and these returnees were overwhelmingly ethnic Croats. 
In December the Law on Expelled Persons and Refugees was amended so 
that some of its discriminatory measures were removed. However, earlier 
in the year the Government enacted an interpretation of the law that 
favored temporary occupiers of property over refugees wishing to return 
to their property. In addition, the Government failed to act to 
eliminate language in the Law on Areas of Special State Concern and the 
Law on Reconstruction that discriminates against ethnic Serbs, despite 
a commitment to change these laws by September 1998.
    The OSCE assessed that while the organized return process worked 
well, persons returning outside this process were not always treated 
fairly. Systems established between the Government Office for Displaced 
Persons and Refugees (ODPR) and the UNHCR worked well. The ODPR 
processed an average of over 450 return applications per week and 
closely coordinated with the UNHCR to receive returnees (overwhelmingly 
ethnic Serbs) from the FRY and Bosnia-Herzegovina. However, the 
Government did not provide benefits and entitlements consistently in a 
timely manner to returnees. Of particular concern were the growing 
number of persons intending to return whose cases were deferred because 
their prewar homes were occupied by settlers or had been destroyed. The 
Government did not encourage actively the return of citizens who did 
not have arrangements for alternative accommodation.
    There were persistent reports that humanitarian and reconstruction 
assistance was not distributed fairly by government agencies. The 
Government allowed free access to all displaced persons by domestic and 
international humanitarian organizations and permitted them to provide 
assistance. However, the Government at times accused international 
organizations of bias in providing assistance only to ethnic Serb 
returnees.
    The Government cooperates with the UNHCR and other humanitarian 
organizations assisting refugees. Although the Government has not yet 
passed legislation to implement the provisions of the 1951 U.N. 
Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, 
the Government formed a working group with the UNHCR to develop such 
legislation in 1999. The ODPR reported that the Government granted 
first asylum to 29,000 persons from the various parts of the former 
Yugoslavia as of September and that it was supporting financially 
another 100,000 displaced persons (not counting displaced ethnic Serbs 
in the Danubian region). Faced with the refugee crisis in Kosovo, the 
Government, in consultation with the international community, agreed to 
accept up to 5,000 Kosovar refugees and had begun to do so when the 
crisis ended. However, the UNHCR reported one instance in which a 
Kosovar Albanian was refouled to the FRY where he was mistreated by 
authorities. The Government later acknowledged its mishandling of the 
case. On April 11 border guards refused entry to 18 Kosovar Albanian 
asylum seekers on the grounds that they lacked the proper 
documentation, and there were other reports of Kosovar Albanians being 
expelled to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to 
        Change Their Government
    The Government's conduct of the flawed 1995 elections seriously 
limited the right of citizens to change their government. All citizens 
over 18 years of age have the right to vote by secret ballot. The 
President, elected for 5 years, exercises substantial power, authority, 
and influence but is limited constitutionally to two terms. Parliament 
comprises the (lower) House of Representatives and the (upper) House of 
Counties. During the year, the HDZ held a majority in both houses, and 
often the role of the HDZ as a political party was blurred with the 
role of the Government. The HDZ continued to wield and expand its 
direct and indirect control over many aspects of public life including 
television and the press, banking, privatization, and the economy. 
However, on January 3, 2000 the ruling HDZ party lost parliamentary 
elections to an opposition coalition. In December President Tudjman, 
who was serving his second 5-year term, died in office. Tudjman was 
reelected President in June 1997 in an election judged to be 
``fundamentally flawed'' and ``free but not fair'' by the OSCE. 
Elections to replace him were scheduled by February 7, 2000. During the 
year, the President's extensive powers, the HDZ's dominance, the 
Government's influence over the judiciary, and its control of the media 
combined to make the country's nominally democratic system in reality 
authoritarian.
    The Government made some progress in addressing issues raised by 
the OSCE and other international organizations that have documented the 
flaws in the electoral system and criticized the 1997 presidential 
elections. The electoral law was based primarily on the compromise 
worked out in negotiations in May between the six largest opposition 
parties and the ruling HDZ party, although the final law reflected some 
changes made by the HDZ. Electoral laws previously had infringed 
directly on the right of citizens to change their government. The new 
electoral law passed by Parliament in October reduced the number of 
seats reserved for diaspora voters (some 2 percent of the population) 
from a fixed quota of 12 seats in Parliament (or some 10 percent of 
seats) to a nonfixed quota, which assigns diaspora voters a number of 
seats proportional to their share of the total electorate. In the 1995 
elections, 90 percent of diaspora voters voted for the ruling HDZ. 
However, the law reduced the number of seats in Parliament reserved for 
the Serb minority. In addition, the Citizenship Law and electoral 
legislation grants citizenship, and thereby the franchise, based purely 
on ethnic grounds to ethnic Croats abroad with no genuine link to the 
country. Meanwhile the Government failed to ensure that Croatian Serbs, 
who fled in 1995 and who wish to assume the responsibilities of 
Croatian citizenship, were able to document their Croatian citizenship 
in order to vote and ultimately to return. The new election law also 
made provisions for independent monitoring by NGO's, the establishment 
of multiparty election commissions, and the elimination of separate, 
higher thresholds for coalitions.
    In addition to the Government's interpretation and implementation 
of laws to suit the ruling party's agenda, the Government used its 
control of the electronic media to control the political process. 
Despite the May agreement to transform public radio and television into 
truly free and independent media, the June telecommunications law made 
only minor changes and the HDZ retained control over Croatian State 
Radio and Television throughout the year. Senior HDZ members were 
members of the board of directors of the state television network. 
Their influence not only restricted the ability of opposition parties 
to criticize government policies and activities, but limited the 
opposition's ability to fully engage the Government and the public in 
an open political dialog (see Section 2.a.).
    Although there were no legal restrictions on participation by women 
or minorities in the political process, they are underrepresented in 
government and politics. There were only small numbers of women in 
Parliament, the executive branch, and the courts. In the Parliament 
that was dissolved in November, 4 of 68 upper house members and 11 of 
127 lower house members were women.
    The election law required minority representation in Parliament, 
with proportional representation for any minority that made up more 
than 8 percent of the population. No minority met that criterion. 
However, representation for the Serb minority was based on government 
estimates of the number of Serbs who fled the country between 1991 and 
1995 and the assumption that they would not return. There were three 
lower house seats allocated to the Serb minority, and two Serb members 
were appointed to the upper house. However, the election law passed by 
the HDZ-dominated Parliament in October reduced the number of seats 
reserved for minorities in the Parliament from seven to five and of 
these, reduced the number of seats reserved for ethnic Serbs from three 
to one (less than 1 percent of the seats in the lower house), despite 
the fact that ethnic Serbs constitute approximately 6 percent of the 
country's population. Of the four remaining seats, one is reserved for 
the Italian minority, one for the Hungarian minority, one for the Czech 
and Slovak community, and one for the combined Russian, Jewish, German, 
Austrian, and Ukrainian minorities. There were no Muslim 
representatives in Parliament despite the fact that in the most recent 
census (1991) the country's 40,000 Muslims were the second largest 
minority after the Serbs, and the new election law did not reserve any 
minority seats for Muslims. Amendments to the Constitution passed by 
the HDZ-dominated Parliament in 1997 and adopted in 1998 excluded 
Muslims as a recognized minority (see Section 5).
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    Human rights groups throughout the country were able to work to 
prevent abuses and bring their concerns to the attention of local and 
central authorities, as well as to the attention of domestic and 
international media. The government-appointed Ombudsman met 
periodically with human rights representatives; the response of other 
ministries varied. Human rights groups reported that, while they may 
have received responses to specific cases, the Government generally 
failed to remedy the underlying institutional problems that were the 
root cause of many of the cases. For example, numerous NGO's repeatedly 
raised the issue of the government's failure to issue instructions to 
ministries and local authorities to implement the Law on Convalidation 
adopted in October 1997 (which would allow documents issued in the 
formerly occupied areas to be recognized or ``convalidated'' by 
government offices--see Section 5). In a positive development, a number 
of NGO's, the largest being Citizens Organized to Monitor Elections 
(GONG) and Voice 99 (Glas 99), were active in organizing preelection 
informational campaigns.
    Under the law, it is difficult for NGO's to solicit contributions 
or donations to support their work. This is due in part to the fact 
that there is no tax benefit to donors. The NGO also must pay tax on 
contributions classified as income. Thus, many human rights groups rely 
on international donations and government funding to continue their 
work. Another problem is the public perception of human rights 
organizations. Senior government officials promoted the view that any 
criticism of the State or the ruling party was disloyal, engendering 
suspicion of NGO's among the general population.
    International organizations, including the European Community 
Monitoring Mission (ECMM), the OSCE, and the UNHCR among others, 
operated freely in Croatia, and there were no reported instances of 
monitors being denied visas or the ability to move freely around the 
country. However, in the spring and summer there were a series of 
burglaries at offices of the OSCE, the UNHCR, and the Norwegian Refugee 
Council offices throughout the country, during which computers were 
stolen. In August the UNHCR and the OSCE requested an investigation 
amid press reports that government intelligence services may have 
conducted the burglaries. At year's end, the Government had not 
responded to this request and no arrests had been made. Officials of 
international organizations noted that the burglaries had a chilling 
effect on all international and nongovernmental organizations. While 
international organizations reported an overall satisfactory level of 
cooperation with officials in Zagreb, they also noted a lack of follow 
through on central government commitments by local authorities. OSCE 
police monitors operated in the Danubian region, monitoring the 
performance of the multiethnic police force. While cooperation 
generally was satisfactory, there were several incidents in which local 
police refused monitors' requests to review or fully investigate cases. 
As with local NGO's, the Government generally failed to respond 
substantively to international NGO reports of human rights abuses and 
tended to treat any specific case brought to its attention as an 
isolated incident.
    Although the Government in general cooperated with international 
organizations and NGO's, especially in the spring and summer, these 
organizations again found themselves targets of criticism in the state-
controlled press claiming that they were discriminating against Croats 
and in favor of ethnic Serbs in the distribution of humanitarian 
assistance. Some government officials, both at the national and local 
levels, fueled this negative attitude toward international 
organizations and NGO's with unhelpful statements calling for the 
Government to react strongly to what was viewed as inappropriate 
meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. In September the 
president of a human rights organization in Zagreb received a 
threatening letter allegedly from members of the Croatian Party of 
Rights (HSP), after the organization had criticized the HSP for 
fomenting ethnic tensions. The Ministry of Interior referred the case 
to the police for investigation. There were no results of the 
investigation available at year's end.
    The government-appointed Ombudsman addressed cases brought to his 
attention by the international community and local NGO's. However, the 
office continued to be weak, due to the small size of its staff and the 
Ombudsman's lack of legal authority to rectify problems directly. The 
Ombudsman was occasionally helpful in the analysis of legislation 
deemed to be detrimental to human rights causes. While the Government 
was perhaps somewhat more responsive to the Ombudsman than to NGO's, 
the overall response by the Government to the underlying problems 
raised by the Ombudsman remained unsatisfactory.
    Committees in the Parliament and in the Government were tasked 
specifically with human and minority rights issues. Both met 
periodically throughout the year to discuss topics and legislation 
within their purview; however, neither played an active role in 
promoting human rights during the year. The government committee failed 
to meet with a leading human rights NGO despite a previous agreement to 
do so.
    The Government's record of cooperation with the ICTY was mixed 
during the year. In July a newspaper published the minutes of an 
October 1998 meeting of the government office for cooperation with 
ICTY, which revealed high-level discussions of a government strategy to 
obstruct the work of the ICTY. While the Government tried to minimize 
the importance of the minutes, calling them ``merely internal 
discussions,'' the ICTY Chief Prosecutor noted that they perfectly 
described the Government's actual behavior. In August the President of 
ICTY reported the country's noncooperation to the U.N. Security 
Council. In November the Tribunal's Chief Prosecutor reported to the 
U.N. on Croatia's noncooperation. A few days later the Government 
refused an ICTY request to provide support and cooperation for a 
proposed field investigation in the country. The investigation was 
postponed. In a positive development, the Government transferred ICTY 
indictee Vinko Martinovic (also known as ``Stela'') as well as some 
requested documents to The Hague in August, albeit under pressure from 
the international community. However, at year's end the extradition of 
Mladen Naletilic (also known as ``Tuta'') had not been carried out due 
to Naletilic's poor health. ICTY requested the extradition of both 
Martinovic and Naletilic in December 1998. The Government failed to 
comply with a number of ICTY evidentiary requests, some dating to 1996. 
The Government has been particularly uncooperative in cases involving 
possible war crimes committed by Croats, and it has resisted ICTY 
requests for information regarding possible war crimes committed during 
and subsequent to operations ``Flash'' and ``Storm'' in 1995. Moreover, 
government officials welcomed persons who had been indicted by the ICTY 
for war crimes. In May Justice Minister Separovic headed a delegation 
which met Zlatko Aleksovski, an ethnic Croat convicted by the ICTY for 
crimes against prisoners of war, upon his return to the country. In 
September military officers participated in a ceremony in Siroki 
Brijeg, Bosnia-Herzegovina that included ICTY indictees among those 
being honored.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language, or Social Status
    The Constitution specifies that individuals shall enjoy all rights 
and freedoms, regardless of race, color, sex, language, religion, 
political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, 
education, social status, or other attributes. It adds that members of 
all national groups and minorities shall have equal rights. While the 
majority of these rights are observed in practice, serious deficiencies 
continued with regard to equality among various national/racial/ethnic 
groups, particularly Serbs and Roma. The Constitution provides for 
special ``wartime measures'' in case of need, but states that 
restrictions shall be appropriate to the nature of the danger and may 
not result in the inequality of citizenship with respect to race, 
color, sex, language, religion, or national or social origin.
    Women.--Although the Government collected only limited statistics 
on the problem, informed observers believed that violence against 
women, including spousal abuse, remained common. One NGO that operated 
a hot line and support services for women assessed that spousal abuse 
continued to be a large and unrecognized problem. Alcohol abuse and 
poor economic circumstances for veterans of the military conflict were 
cited as contributing factors. In June a government commission on 
equality indicated to NGO's that it would recommend that the Government 
track statistics on violence against women; however, at year's end it 
had not yet done so.
    Amendments to the Penal Code which went into effect in 1998 removed 
violence perpetrated within the family (except against children) from 
the categories of crimes to be prosecuted automatically by the state 
attorney. The victim now must file a request to prosecute, thereby 
severely curtailing efforts by health care workers and police to act on 
suspected cases of violence in the home. In May the Constitutional 
Court upheld the constitutionality of this procedure. The nonpartisan 
Parliamentary Women's Caucus promised to seek amendments of these laws, 
but at year's end had not yet done so.
    Based on anecdotal evidence, it is likely that some women were 
trafficked for the purpose of forced prostitution (see Section 6.f.).
    Sexual harassment is a violation of the penal code section on abuse 
of position, but is not specifically included in the employment law. 
NGO's reported that in practice, women generally did not resort to the 
penal code for relief for fear of losing their jobs. In a positive 
development, the labor union of the Pliva pharmaceutical company signed 
a collective agreement that specifically forbids sexual harassment.
    The law does not discriminate by gender. However, in practice women 
generally hold lower paying positions in the work force. Government 
statistics from previous years showed that, while women constituted 
roughly 50 percent of the work force, they occupied few jobs at senior 
levels, even in areas such as education and administration where they 
were a clear majority of the workers. Considerable anecdotal evidence 
has suggested that women hold by far the preponderance of low-level 
clerical and shopkeeping positions, as well as primary and secondary 
school teaching jobs. Women reportedly are often among the first to be 
fired or laid off. NGO's and labor organizations reported a practice in 
which women received short-term work contracts renewable every 3 to 6 
months, creating a climate of job insecurity for them. While men 
occasionally suffered from this practice, it was disproportionately 
used against women to dissuade them from taking maternity leave. 
Legislation was passed during the year limiting the use of short-term 
work contracts to a maximum of 3 years.
    While there is no national organization devoted solely to the 
protection of women's rights, many small, independent groups were 
active in the capital and larger cities. One of the most active was 
B.a.B.e. (``Be Active, Be Emancipated'').
    Children.--The Government is committed to the welfare of children. 
Education is mandatory through age 14. Schools provide free meals for 
children, subsidized daycare facilities are available in most 
communities even for infants, medical care for children is free, and 
the Labor Code authorizes 1 full year of maternity leave and 3 years' 
leave for women with twins or more than two children.
    The majority of students continue their education to the age of 18, 
with Roma being the only group reporting any notable exception. The 
Government blamed the problems of Roma largely on linguistic and 
cultural differences that make their integration in schools difficult. 
Romani children face some discrimination and problems, due largely to 
these cultural and linguistic barriers at school. The Government's 
commitments to children suffered from less funding than in the past, as 
other priorities took a larger portion of government resources.
    There is no societal pattern of abuse of children.
    People With Disabilities.--No legislation mandates access to 
buildings or government services for people with disabilities, and 
access to such facilities is often difficult. While people with 
disabilities face no openly discriminatory measures, job opportunities 
generally are limited. Special education also is limited and poorly 
funded.
    Religious Minorities.--Religion and ethnicity were closely related, 
and religion frequently was used to identify and single out non-Croats 
for discriminatory practices (see Section 2.c.). This close 
identification of religion with ethnicity caused religious institutions 
to be targets of violence. There were persistent reports throughout the 
country of the damage and defacement of Serbian (Orthodox) cemeteries 
with an estimated six such incidents in the Danubian region in November 
and December alone. In August attackers with stones broke windows at 
the home of Mufti Sevko Omerbasic, the head of the Islamic community in 
the country. In September one person was detained as the investigation 
continued.
    In Cakovec the memorial plaque at the site of the synagogue 
destroyed during the Hungarian occupation in World War II was 
desecrated in the first week of August. The plaque later was rehung. 
The police were searching for the perpetrators but have detained no 
suspects. The Jewish community in Cakovec was decimated during World 
War II and the synagogue was torn down.
    The Government announced in March that it planned to restore a 
memorial at Jasenovac to the victims killed at that concentration camp 
during World War II. Retreating Serb forces destroyed the memorial and 
looted the camp museum in 1995. Premier Zlatko Matesa announced during 
his visit to the camp in March that the restoration of the memorial was 
part of the Government's ``policy of reconciliation.''
    In October the Parliament approved the appointment to the 
Constitutional Court of hardliner Vice Vukojevic, who is known for 
leading a parliamentary commission established in 1991 to determine the 
number of persons killed in concentration camps run by the country's 
Fascist Ustasha during World War II. Vukojevic's commission provided 
very low estimates of the number of Croatians, including Jews, killed 
in all Croatian concentration camps; these estimates contradict all 
credible scholarship on the subject. The commission's report was 
criticized by the President of the Parliament, the press, and the 
director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem. Faced with such 
criticism, the lower house of Parliament decided to return the report 
to the commission to be ``completed.''
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities.--Constitutionally, ethnic 
minorities enjoy the same protection as other self-identified ethnic 
and religious groups; however, in practice a pattern of open and severe 
discrimination continues against ethnic Serbs and, at times, other 
minorities in a wide number of areas, including the administration of 
justice, employment, housing, and freedom of movement. The Government 
often maintained a double standard of treatment based on ethnicity. 
Members of minority groups in principle have equal constitutional 
protections with Croat citizens, and their ethnic rights are provided 
for in the preamble to the Constitution. However, the Government's 
definition of what constitutes a minority group is discriminatory. In 
1998 the Parliament decided to omit Muslims, Albanians, and Slovenes 
from those minorities listed in the Constitution on the grounds that 
they are not considered indigenous groups. Muslims are currently the 
second largest minority group in the country after Serbs, and some 
observers argue that their elimination from the Constitution may deny 
them rights stipulated in the (albeit partially suspended) 
Constitutional Law on the Rights of Ethnic and National Communities or 
Minorities. Government committees established in 1997 to promote 
reconciliation and trust between Croats and Serbs were not effective. 
The OSCE assessed that there was a lack of political will to carry out 
the program, and that its organizational structures were either 
inoperative or nonexistent.
    There were three ethnically motivated killings, which were 
symptomatic of ethnic tensions in the formerly occupied areas that 
discouraged persons from returning to areas where they would be a 
minority. In May in Marinci in the Danubian region a 59-year-old Serb 
resident was shot and killed by a Croat who maintained that he had 
fired in self-defense. The suspect was released on bail. At year's end 
an indictment had been issued in the case but no trial date was set. In 
August a 39-year-old Serb resident of Berak in the Danubian region was 
beaten to death reportedly by a gang of Croats. Local police arrested 
one suspect, who was in custody and indicted at year's end, but no 
trial date was set in the case. In November in Tenja in the Danubian 
region, a 60-year-old ethnic Serb resident was shot to death by a local 
Croat who was arrested soon thereafter. According to international 
monitors, both the police and the judiciary worked effectively on the 
case. On December 29, the suspect pled guilty to the crime and was 
sentenced to 10 years in prison. The OSCE assessed that a surge of 
violence in Berak, which included anti-Serb protests in May, an attack 
on a Serb police officer, and numerous instances of harassment, caused 
two-thirds of the village's Serb families to flee. In August anti-Serb 
demonstrations occurred in nearby Sotin. Both the Sotin demonstrations 
and the protests in Berak were motivated by the desire to pressure 
Serbs to provide information about ethnic Croats missing since the war. 
The Government not only failed to take concerted action to reduce these 
tensions, but Justice Minister Zvonimir Separovic stoked an already 
tense climate during two visits to the region when he called for vigils 
to continue.
    Intimidation and violence against Serbs continued in the Danubian 
region during the year, especially in the spring, in Borovo, Beli 
Manistir, Cakovci, Sotin, and Mirkovci. In August a human rights NGO 
wrote to the Prime Minister about the atmosphere of increasing fear 
among Serb returnees in Knin in the southern region of the country. 
Incidents included destruction of crops and physical assaults, 
including the case of a 75-year-old woman who watched as her Bosnian 
Croat neighbors slaughtered her livestock with a chainsaw and the 
unsolved October arson of 10 haystacks that belonged to ethnic Serb 
returnees. The Helsinki Committee noted that the mayor of Knin failed 
to intervene to prevent such incidents. The mayor in April stated that 
Serb returns must be halted until all Croat war veterans could obtain 
housing, a plan that would violate Croatia's refugee return act. While 
the number of Serb returnees to the Knin area doubled to approximately 
7,000 during the year, only a handful were able to return to their own 
homes, because the local housing commissions did not evict Bosnian 
Croats occupying their property.
    The Constitution provides the legal basis and rights for education 
in the languages of national minorities and communities. The well-
documented pattern of the discriminatory application of laws and 
administrative regulations was also evident in education. For example, 
in textbooks the history of the former Yugoslavia has been omitted in 
favor of a more nationalistic Croat interpretation, and new textbooks 
have tended to use derogatory adjectives in reference to minorities. In 
addition, apart from the Danubian region, there are still very few 
classes for Serb pupils that follow the approved Serbian school 
program. Serb students countrywide continued to use materials and 
follow the curriculum of the Croat students.
    The Law on Citizenship distinguishes between those who have a claim 
to Croatian ethnicity and those who do not. The ``Croatian people'' are 
eligible to become citizens of the country, even if they were not 
citizens of the former Socialist Republic of Croatia, as long as they 
submit a written statement that they consider themselves Croatian 
citizens. Non-ethnic Croats must satisfy more stringent requirements 
through naturalization in order to obtain citizenship, even if they 
were previously lawful residents of Croatia in the former Yugoslavia 
(see section 1.d.). This double standard led to discrimination in other 
areas, in particular the right to vote (see section 3). While an 
application is pending, the applicant is denied rights such as social 
allowances, including medical care, pensions, free education, and 
employment in the civil service. Denials were frequently based on 
Article 26 of the Citizenship Law (which stipulates that citizenship 
can be denied to persons otherwise qualified for reasons of national 
interest) and Article 8 (which requires that a person's actions 
demonstrate that they are ``attached to the legal system and customs of 
Croatia'' and that they have maintained a permanent residence on the 
territory of Croatia for the 5 years preceding the application for 
citizenship). Persons returning under the Government's return program 
without citizenship status were denied returnee status and associated 
social benefits. These denials frequently were based on laws 
stipulating that citizenship can be denied for reasons of national 
interest and that a person's actions must demonstrate ``attachment to 
the legal system and customs of Croatia'' and that the person must have 
resided in the country for the 5 years preceding the application.
    Unemployment among Serbs has been significantly higher than the 
national average (see Section 6.b.).
    Committees established in 1997 to promote reconciliation between 
Croats and Serbs failed to initiate and carry out concrete programs 
that would contribute significantly to the peaceful reintegration of 
populations. Anto Djapic of the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) mounted 
an aggressive campaign using ultranationalist rhetoric against the 
return of ethnic Serbs and cooperation with the ICTY war crimes 
tribunal. In inflammatory speeches given wide coverage in the state-
controlled press, Djapic suggested that the HSP would organize 
``intervention'' squads against ethnic Serb returnees and would charge 
Serb politicians with war crimes. There was no strong government effort 
to criticize or distance itself from these statements.
    Property destruction and other forms of harassment often arose from 
disputes between home occupiers of one ethnicity and returning 
homeowners of another. OSCE monitors reported a decrease in the number 
of ethnically motivated incidents over previous years, but verbal and 
legal harassment, forcible evictions, and assaults occurred regularly 
(see Section 2.d.). During the year in the Danubian region, 
international monitors recorded 1,017 cases of ethnically motivated 
intimidations and housing disputes. This figure included approximately 
61 physical assaults and several incidents of grenade throwing onto 
property. In cases throughout the country, regardless of ethnicity, 
incidents of looting by the person occupying a home upon his or her 
departure were common. Police responses were often inadequate due to 
conflicting instructions on how to handle disputes over housing. The 
bias of some local officials and the inability of police to rectify the 
problems underlying the harassment caused many incidents to go 
unreported.
    Despite the adoption in October 1997 of legislation that would 
allow the recognition of legal and administrative documents issued by 
the rebel Serb para-state, this legislation was not put into practice 
because several ministries failed to adopt implementing instructions. 
For example, ethnic Serbs who lived in the occupied regions must have 
applied for welfare benefits within 1 year of the law's passage. 
However, 1 year later many Serbs who had fled were still unable to 
return to Croatia and thus unable to apply. In August one NGO providing 
legal assistance had files on 9,000 unresolved convalidation cases in 
Osijek alone. Without the convalidation conferred by the law, citizens 
(almost exclusively ethnic Serbs) were unable to resolve a wide range 
of problems including pensions, disability insurance, unemployment 
benefits, the recognition of births, deaths, and marriages, and even 
confirmation of time served in prison. This made resumption of a normal 
life almost impossible for this group (see Section 4). Serb property 
owners displaced by the Law on the Temporary Takeover of Specified 
Property in favor of ethnic Croat refugees remained unable to access 
their property, despite the 1998 program for returns, which mandated 
multi-ethnic ``housing commissions'' to implement property restitution. 
A lack of alternative housing in many areas and the lack of political 
will to evict ethnic Croat occupiers without alternative housing in 
favor of Serb homeowners resulted in only a handful of restituted 
properties outside of the Danubian region (see Section 1.f.).
    Although in recent years the Government had discriminated against a 
particular group of Muslims in the issuance of citizenship documents, 
the Government began granting citizenship to them during the year (see 
Section 2.d.).
    The situation of other minority groups--Slovaks, Czechs, Italians, 
and Hungarians--did not reflect discrimination to the same extent as 
that of the Serb community. There were NGO and press reports of 
incidents of police officers beating Roma. According to press reports 
in August, ethnic Croatian police officers in the Baranja region beat 
Roma. In one incident an ethnic Croatian police officer allegedly beat 
a Rom and threatened him at gunpoint. The Rom reportedly filed a 
complaint against the officer with no known result. In another incident 
police officers reportedly assaulted two Roma, whom they had caught 
fishing illegally. Roma continued to face discrimination and failure by 
the Government to respond to their complaints. In September a human 
rights NGO reported that the persecution of Roma in the Danubian region 
increased over the past 2 years. Incidents cited included assaults, 
harassment, and destruction of homes by ethnic Croats who blame the 
Roma for remaining in the region while it was under Serbian occupation. 
Before the war, 10,000 Roma lived in the region, but only 1,500 remain 
with thousands fleeing to the FRY since the Government regained control 
of the area in 1998. According to a Roma rights NGO, in the village of 
Popovac in the Danubian region where some 30 families lived before the 
war, only 3 remain after numerous incidents of violence and 
intimidation, including at attack on a Romani police officer in 1998. 
There are persistent reports of police intimidation.
Section 6. Worker Rights
    a. The Right of Association.--All workers are entitled to form or 
join unions of their own choosing without prior authorization. There is 
an active labor movement with one major and four minor national labor 
federations and independent associations of both blue- and white-collar 
members. Approximately 64 percent of workers are members of unions of 
one type or another. In general unions are independent of the 
government and political parties.
    The law prohibits retaliation against strikers participating in 
legal strikes. Workers only may strike at the end of a contract or in 
specific circumstances mentioned in the contract. More importantly, the 
Supreme Court has ruled that workers may not strike for nonpayment of 
wages, a continuing problem that is likely to grow if the economy sinks 
deeper into recession. The only recourse in the event of nonpayment is 
to go to court--a process that may take several years.
    When negotiating a new contract, workers are required to go through 
mediation before they can strike. Labor and management choose the 
mediator together. If they cannot agree, the Labor Law calls for a 
tripartite commission of labor, business, and government 
representatives to appoint one. However, nearly 4 years after this law 
became effective, the tripartite commission still had not established 
the required list of mediators, and union requests for their 
appointment have gone unanswered. In fact the commission has not met 
for over 1 year. In practice, both unions and managers often ignore the 
mediation process and deal directly with each other when a conflict 
arises. Arbitration is never mandatory but can be used only if both 
sides agree. Only after submitting to mediation and formally filing a 
statement that negotiations are at an impasse is a strike legal. If a 
strike is found to be illegal, any participant can be dismissed, and 
the union held liable for damages, although no strikes were found to be 
illegal during the year.
    The right to strike is provided for in the Constitution with these 
limitations and with additional limits on members of the armed forces, 
police, government administration, and public services. Strikes 
occurred fairly frequently and increasingly without government 
sanction. A September strike at a food processor near Vukovar over 
unpaid wages and unfulfilled government promises brought Serbs and 
Croats together, a rare instance of ethnic cooperation in the Danubian 
region. Authorities continued to refuse to permit demonstrations in 
Zagreb's main square or the square in front of Parliament. On February 
16, some 2,000 workers marched in Zagreb, protesting the bankruptcy of 
the Diona retail food chain. When the group spontaneously decided to 
march to the square in front of the parliament building, where 
demonstrations are prohibited, they were met by some 200 police 
officers. Several police officers were injured, one seriously, in the 
ensuing scuffle (see Section 2.b.). On December 2, more than 1,000 
employees of the Nama department store chain protested in Zagreb to 
demand payment of back wages. Government officials had announced on 
December 1 that the Croatian Privatization Fund only had enough money 
to pay half of the amount due to some 2,000 employees of the Nama 
chain.
    After more than 5 years of negotiations, representatives of the 
five Croatian trade union confederations signed an agreement in July 
dividing Communist-era trade union office space. A 1998 law, however, 
transferred title of all union property to the government until an 
agreement among the unions can be approved by parliament. Union leaders 
in May contended that land registers demonstrate a government plan to 
confiscate the property permanently. The unions appealed to the 
International Labor Organization (ILO); in September a decision was 
still pending.
    Unions may affiliate freely internationally.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--Collective 
bargaining is protected by law and practiced freely. The Labor Code 
governs collective bargaining contracts, protection for striking 
workers, and legal limitations on the ability of employers to conduct 
``lockouts'' during labor disputes.
    The transition to private enterprise and a free market economy kept 
labor unions under pressure at the same time that they were making 
progress towards establishing themselves as genuine trade unions, 
representative of their members rather than the Government. General 
unemployment remained the most significant hurdle, hovering at about 19 
percent for most of the year. However, in some war-affected areas the 
figure was as high as 80 to 90 percent. Over 100,000 workers (10 
percent of the workforce) failed to receive their salaries on time. 
When salary payments are not made, payments into the social welfare 
system lag as well, thereby denying workers health coverage.
    The Labor Code directly deals with antiunion discrimination issues. 
It expressly allows unions to challenge firings in court. However, 
according to persistent reports, ethnicity was used as grounds for 
dismissal. An individual's ability to rectify a grievance is severely 
limited by the already overburdened court system, where cases languish 
for months or years before they are resolved (see Section 1.d.).
    The Government occasionally employs coercion or other questionable 
methods to induce striking employees to return to work. For example, 
the management of Croatian railroads routinely interviews workers, 
often with a policeman present, about their intentions before, during, 
and after short-term strikes that are frequently called by the railway 
union. In April during tense contract negotiations with Croatian 
railroads' management, the vice president of the Locomotive Engineers 
Union was beaten severely with metal bars by unknown assailants. In 
June when the Tourism and Catering Trade Union initiated a strike at 
two tourist companies over mismanagement and nonpayment of wages, 
Minister of Tourism Herak warned the union's president that she would 
be slandered publicly if the strikes continued.
    There are no export processing zones.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--The Constitution 
prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and there generally were no 
reports of these practices; however, there were occasional instances of 
women trafficked through the country for the purpose of forced 
prostitution (see Section 6.f.). While legislation does not explicitly 
cover children, the constitutional ban provides blanket coverage in 
this area, and the Government enforces this prohibition effectively. 
The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is the agency charged with 
enforcing the ban on coerced or forced labor.
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--The minimum age for the employment of children is 15 
years, and it is enforced by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. 
Under the Constitution, the provisions of which the Government 
enforces, children may not be employed before reaching the legally 
determined age and are not allowed to perform work that is harmful to 
their health or morality. There is no reported pattern of abuse of 
child labor. Workers under the age of 18 are entitled to special 
protection at work and are prohibited from heavy manual labor and night 
shifts. Education is free, universal, and mandatory up to the age of 
14. Children generally finish secondary school at a minimum, and a high 
proportion go on to university. The broad constitutional prohibition 
against forced or compulsory labor encompasses the case of children, 
and there were no reports of its use.
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--In March the government signed a 
collective bargaining agreement establishing a minimum wage of about 
$211 (1,500 kuna) per month. While the initial document was signed on 
behalf of only a portion of the work force, the Government extended the 
agreement to cover all full-time workers nationwide. The Government 
Bureau of Statistics estimated that the average net monthly wage was 
approximately $425 (3,039 kuna), which is not sufficient to provide a 
decent standard of living for a worker and family.
    National regulations provide for a 42-hour workweek including a 30-
minute daily break, a 24-hour rest period during the week, and a 
minimum of 18 days of paid vacation leave annually. Workers receive 
time-and-a-half pay for any hours worked beyond 42. Most unions, 
however, have negotiated a 40-hour workweek.
    Health and safety standards are set by the government and are 
enforced by the Ministry of Health. In practice industries are not 
diligent in meeting standards for worker protection. It is common, for 
example, to find workers without hardhats at construction sites and 
equipment with safety devices removed. Workers can in theory remove 
themselves from hazardous conditions at work. Workers would have 
recourse to the courts in a situation where they felt that they had 
been wrongfully dismissed for doing so.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--Laws can be used to prosecute 
traffickers in persons, and trafficking in persons was not a 
significant problem during the year. There is little information 
available on trafficking, although U.N. officials tracking the issue 
regionally indicate that Croatia is a lesser source, transit, and 
destination country for some women trafficked to other parts of Europe 
for forced prostitution. International police monitors did not report 
any individual cases of trafficking in persons during the year. 
However, there were reports of women trafficked through Bosnia-
Herzegovina to Croatia, where they remain to work as prostitutes or are 
trafficked on to other destinations. One NGO reported six cases of 
trafficking during the year.
                                 ______
                                 

                                 CYPRUS

    Prior to 1974, Cyprus experienced a long period of intercommunal 
strife between its Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. In response 
the United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) began peacekeeping 
operations in March 1964. The island has been divided since the Turkish 
military intervention of 1974, following a coup d'etat directed from 
Greece. Since 1974 the southern part of the island has been under the 
control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. The northern part 
is ruled by a Turkish Cypriot administration. In 1983 that 
administration proclaimed itself the ``Turkish Republic of Northern 
Cyprus'' (``TRNC''), which is recognized only by Turkey. The two parts 
are separated by a buffer zone patrolled by the UNFICYP. A substantial 
number of Turkish troops remain on the island. In both the government-
controlled area and in the Turkish Cypriot community democratic 
principles generally are respected. Glafcos Clerides was reelected 
president of the Republic of Cyprus in February 1998; in 1995 Turkish 
Cypriots reelected Rauf Denktash as their leader. The judiciary is 
independent in both communities.
    Police in the government-controlled area and in the Turkish Cypriot 
community are responsible for law enforcement. Police forces operating 
in the government-controlled area are under civilian control, while 
military authorities direct Turkish Cypriot police forces. In general 
the police forces of both sides respect the rule of law, but instances 
of police abuse of power continued.
    Both Cypriot economies operate on the basis of free market 
principles, although in each community there are significant 
administrative controls. The government-controlled part of the island 
has a robust, service-oriented economy, with a declining manufacturing 
base and a small agricultural sector. Tourism and trade generate 21 
percent of gross domestic product and employ 27 percent of the labor 
force. In 1998 per capita income was approximately $13,600, inflation 
was 2.2 percent, and unemployment was 3.3 percent. Growth in 1998 rose 
to 5 percent, compared with 2.3 percent in 1997. The Turkish Cypriot 
economy, which is handicapped significantly by an economic embargo by 
the Greek Cypriots, relies heavily on subsidies from Turkey and is 
burdened by an overly large public sector. It, too, is basically 
service-oriented but has a relatively smaller tourism and trade base--
accounting for 16 percent of gross domestic product and employing 10 
percent of the work force--and a larger agricultural sector. In 1998 
per capita income in the north was approximately $4,000, and inflation 
was 66 percent. The economy in the north grew 5.3 percent in 1998 
compared with 3.8 percent in 1997.
    The Government of the Republic of Cyprus generally respected 
citizens' human rights; however, instances of police brutality 
continued to be a problem.
    The Turkish Cypriot authorities generally respected human rights; 
however, police abuse of suspects' and detainees' rights continued to 
be a problem. The authorities also continued to restrict freedom of 
movement. Since December 1997, the Turkish Cypriot authorities have 
banned most bicommunal contacts between Turkish Cypriots and Greek 
Cypriots, including previously frequent meetings in Nicosia's buffer 
zone. They sometimes attempted to prevent Turkish Cypriots from 
travelling to bicommunal meetings off the island as well. In 1998 
Turkish Cypriot officials also instituted a new, higher fee system for 
``visas'' at the main Nicosia checkpoint, making it more expensive for 
both sides to cross the buffer zone. The Turkish Cypriot authorities 
have taken some steps to improve the conditions of Greek Cypriots and 
Maronites living in the territory under their control, but the 
treatment of these groups still falls short of Turkish Cypriot 
obligations under the Vienna III Agreement of 1975.
    Violence against women and trafficking in women for forced 
prostitution remained problems in both areas.
                        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.
    Turkish Cypriot authorities still have not conducted a credible 
investigation of the 1996 murder of a prominent leftist Turkish Cypriot 
journalist, Kutlu Adali, who wrote articles critical of Turkey's role 
in the north and particularly on the role of the Turkish military and 
of policies that allowed large numbers of Turkish workers into the 
north.
    In 1996 Turkish Cypriot civilian police killed a Greek Cypriot 
demonstrator who entered the U.N. buffer zone, and the police 
participated in the beating death of another. Again, there has not been 
any significant investigation by Turkish Cypriot authorities of the 
killings. The family of one of the deceased filed a case against Turkey 
in the European Court of Human Rights, which declared the case 
admissible in June.
    b. Disappearance.--There were no reports of politically motivated 
disappearances.
    c. Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment.--Both the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus and the 
basic law governing the Turkish Cypriot community specifically prohibit 
torture, the law in both communities prohibits such practices, and the 
authorities generally respect these provisions in practice; however, 
there continue to be instances of Cypriot police brutality against 
suspects in detention, mostly involving non-Cypriots. One officer is on 
trial in connection with the October 1998 beating of illegal immigrant 
detainees by members of a special police unit (see Section 2.d.).
    Official action still is pending against the Cypriot police 
involved in a 1995 case of torture of a suspected Turkish Cypriot drug 
smuggler, Erkan Egmez. Egmez was released and returned to the north. He 
filed a complaint against the Cypriot Government with the European 
Commission of Human Rights, and the Commission ruled it admissible in 
1998.
    The Commission also agreed in January 1998 to investigate 
complaints by nine Turkish Cypriots that Greek Cypriot police 
mistreated them in 1994 and expelled them to the north. The 
complainants allege that they were threatened with death if they 
returned to the south and that Greek Cypriot police were responsible 
for the death of one complainant's son, who returned to the south later 
in 1994. The Cypriot Government denies all of the charges; the 
Commission took oral evidence in the case in Nicosia in September 1998.
    In all of its cases, the Commission's admissibility ruling makes no 
judgment on the merits of the individual case.
    While there were no public allegations of police brutality in the 
Turkish Cypriot community, there were credible reports of pervasive 
police abuse of power and routine harsh physical treatment of detainees 
(see Section 1.d.).
    Prison conditions in general meet or exceed minimum international 
standards. Persons incarcerated in jails in the south on minor charges 
reportedly are mixed with more hardened, violent criminals.
    The Cypriot government and the Turkish Cypriot authorities permit 
prison visits by human rights monitors.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--Republic of Cyprus 
police respect laws providing for freedom from arbitrary arrest and 
detention. Judicially issued arrest warrants are required. No one may 
be detained for more than a day without referral of the case to the 
courts for extension of the period of detention. Most periods of 
investigative detention do not exceed 8 to 10 days before formal 
charges are filed. Attorneys generally have access to detainees; bail 
is permitted. The Government of Cyprus claims the right to deport 
foreign nationals for reasons of public interest whether or not they 
have been charged with or convicted of a crime.
    Some abuses of power occur at the hands of the Turkish Cypriot 
police, generally at the time of arrest. Suspects often are not 
permitted to have their lawyers present when testimony is being taken, 
a right provided under the Turkish Cypriot basic law. Suspects who 
demand the presence of a lawyer are threatened routinely with stiffer 
charges or even physically intimidated. A high percentage of 
convictions in the Turkish Cypriot community are obtained with 
confessions made during initial police interrogation under these 
conditions. According to credible reports, the police also routinely 
abuse their authority to hold persons up to 24 hours before having to 
go before a judge. Police officers use this tactic against persons 
believed to have behaved in a manner deemed insulting to the officer. 
The suspects then are released within 24 hours without charges having 
been filed.
    Exile is prohibited specifically by the Constitution and by the 
basic law governing the Turkish Cypriot community and is not used.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--The judiciary is legally 
independent of executive or military influence in both communities, and 
it is independent in practice.
    On both sides, most criminal and civil cases begin in district 
courts, from which appeals are made to Supreme Courts. No special 
courts exist for security or political offenses.
    Cyprus inherited many elements of its legal system from the United 
Kingdom, including the presumption of innocence, the right to due 
process, and the right of appeal. Throughout Cyprus, a fair public 
trial is provided for in law and accorded in practice. Defendants have 
the right to be present at their trials, to be represented by counsel 
(at government expense for those who cannot afford one), to confront 
witnesses, and to present evidence in their own defense.
    On the Turkish Cypriot side, civilians deemed to have violated 
military zones or military regulations are subject to trial in a 
military court. These courts consist of one military and two civilian 
judges and a civilian prosecutor. Members of the Turkish Cypriot bar 
have complained that civilian judges tend to defer to their military 
colleagues in such hearings.
    There were no reports of political prisoners.
    f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--Both the Cyprus Constitution and the basic law 
governing the Turkish Cypriot community include provisions protecting 
the individual against arbitrary interference by the authorities, and a 
judicial warrant is required for a police official to enter a private 
residence. Although authorities on both sides generally respected these 
provisions in practice, police on both sides on occasion have subjected 
members of the other community resident in their area to surveillance 
(see Section 5).
    The Turkish Cypriot authorities restrict the ability of Greek 
Cypriots and Maronites living in the north to change their housing at 
will (see Section 5).
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
    a. Freedom of Speech and Press.--Freedom of speech and of the press 
are provided for by law, and these rights are respected in practice 
throughout the island. The proliferation of party and independent 
newspapers and periodicals in both communities enables ideas and 
arguments to circulate freely. Opposition papers frequently criticize 
the authorities. Several private television and radio stations in the 
Greek Cypriot community compete effectively with the government-
controlled stations. Since 1997 seven private radio stations have 
operated in the Turkish Cypriot community, in addition to two smaller, 
university-run stations, and four private television stations. 
International broadcasts are available without interference throughout 
the island, including telecasts from Turkey and Greece.
    In 1998 Turkish Cypriot officials filed a number of court actions 
against newspapers and journalists, alleging that certain articles 
``damaged the prestige of the state.'' Five complaints against one 
newspaper were consolidated into one action, and a trial was held. In 
December the court ruled that the newspaper was liable and fined it 
approximately $215,000 (120 billion Turkish lira). The same newspaper 
also faces charges for a 1998 story alleging that Turkish Cypriot 
soldiers assaulted a Turkish Cypriot family after a dispute over 
housing.
    Intermittent restrictions were imposed on the ability of some 
journalists to cross the buffer zone to cover news events. The Cypriot 
Government denied entry to the south for visiting Turkish journalists 
who arrived in Cyprus through ports of entry in the north; in 
retaliation, Turkish Cypriot authorities sometimes required Greek 
Cypriot journalists to purchase a ``visa'' to enter the north, which 
the journalists refused to do. Current Turkish Cypriot policy, while 
applied inconsistently, is to permit Greek Cypriot journalists 
travelling as a group to cover events in the north without paying a 
crossing fee, but not to allow Greek journalists unless they pay the 
fee. Individual Greek Cypriot journalists usually also must pay the 
fees.
    Academic freedom generally is respected throughout the island.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The freedom to 
hold meetings, associate, and organize is protected by law, and the 
Government respects these rights in practice.
    Although Turkish Cypriot authorities also generally respected these 
rights, they imposed restrictions on bicommunal meetings (see Section 
2.d.).
    c. Freedom of Religion.--Freedom of religion generally is 
respected. The Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus recognizes five 
religions that are exempt from taxes and receive government subsidies. 
Other religions may register routinely as nonprofit organizations and 
receive tax exemptions, but not subsidies. In the Turkish Cypriot area, 
no religion is recognized in the basic law, but Islamic institutions 
receive tax exemptions and subsidies through the Wakf religious trust; 
no other church receives exemptions or subsidies. Although missionaries 
have the legal right to proselytize in both communities, missionary 
activities are monitored closely by the Greek Cypriot Orthodox Church 
and by both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot authorities.
    Turkish Cypriots residing in the southern part of the island and 
non-Muslims in the north are allowed to practice their religions. 
Restrictions on the right of Greek Cypriots resident in the north to 
visit Apostolos Andreas monastery were eased in 1998. They now may 
visit the monastery without restriction. Maronites may not visit 
certain religious sites in the north located in military zones. 
Armenians may not visit any religious sites in the north. A Greek 
Cypriot request to replace a retiring Orthodox priest in the north has 
been pending for more than 2 years.
    d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots 
enjoy freedom of movement within their respective areas. Both 
authorities respect the right to travel abroad and to emigrate. Turkish 
Cypriots have difficulty traveling to most countries because travel 
documents issued by the ``Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'' are 
recognized only by Turkey. Most Turkish Cypriots use Turkish travel 
documents instead.
    The Republic of Cyprus authorities discourage travel to the 
northern part of the island. They permit only day travel by tourists to 
the north, sometimes arbitrarily refuse permission to non-Cypriots to 
cross to the north, and pressure foreigners working in Cyprus not to 
cross to the north. They have declared that it is illegal to enter 
Cyprus except at authorized entry points in the south, effectively 
barring entry into the government-controlled area by foreigners who 
have entered Cyprus from the north. Following the 1994 murder of the 
director of a Greek Cypriot association supporting Kurds in Turkey, the 
Greek Cypriot authorities placed significantly tighter controls on the 
movement of Turkish Cypriots to the south. Institutions and individuals 
sponsoring visits of Turkish Cypriots to the government-controlled area 
must notify the police in advance and provide them with an exact 
itinerary.
    Turkish Cypriot authorities generally allow visits to the north by 
persons who initially enter Cyprus in the south, but they have denied 
entry to persons of Turkish Cypriot origin who enter Cyprus in the 
south. Previously, visitors of Greek Cypriot or Armenian origin, or 
even persons having Greek or Armenian names, faced considerable 
difficulties entering the north. In 1995 the Turkish Cypriot 
authorities instituted a policy under which foreign nationals of Greek 
Cypriot origin would be permitted to visit the Turkish Cypriot-
controlled area. However, implementation of the procedures remains 
inconsistent.
    In 1998 the Turkish Cypriot leadership instituted a system of 
``visa'' fees at the main Nicosia checkpoint. In addition to requiring 
substantially higher fees (approximately $24 [15 pounds sterling] for 
Greeks and Greek Cypriots, and $6.50 [4 pounds sterling] for Turkish 
Cypriots travelling to the south), the plan requires Greeks and Greek 
Cypriots to obtain a formal ``TRNC visa'' to visit the north. Maronites 
pay a lesser fee--$6.50 (4 pounds sterling) per visit if over age 18, 
or $48 (30 pounds sterling) for an annual family pass. Greek Cypriots, 
Maronites, and other non-Turkish Cypriots permanently residing in the 
north can obtain a monthly crossing permit for approximately $16 (10 
pounds sterling). The new system initially reduced overall crossings, 
especially for Maronites visiting from the south, for whom travel 
previously had been free. However, the number of Maronites crossing 
from the south increased in 1999. Requests to cross into the north must 
be submitted 48 hours in advance.
    Following an agreement in 1997 on reciprocal visits to religious 
sites, a number of visits occurred during the year. The Cypriot 
Government permitted over 1,200 Turkish Cypriots to make a pilgrimage 
to a Moslem shrine in the south in March, and allowed another 1,300 to 
travel in June. In April a group of approximately 1,300 Greek Cypriots 
visited the Apostolos Andreas monastery in the north. In August almost 
1,000 Greek Cypriots traveled to the monastery, and in November another 
group of 1,700 visited as well.
    In 1996 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled 11 to 6 
that Turkey committed a continuing violation of the rights of a Greek 
Cypriot woman by preventing her from going to her property located in 
north Cyprus. The ruling reaffirmed the validity of property deeds 
issued prior to 1974. The Court also found in this case that ``it was 
obvious from the large number of troops engaged in active duties in 
northern Cyprus that the Turkish army exercised effective overall 
control there. In the circumstances of the case, this entailed Turkey's 
responsibility for the policies and actions of the `TRNC.' '' In July 
1998 the Court ordered Turkey to pay the woman approximately $915,000 
in damages and costs by October 28, 1998. The Turkish Government stated 
that it cannot implement the Court's decision, which it contends is a 
political decision, and argued that the land in question is not Turkish 
but is part of the ``Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.'' The Council 
of Europe (COE) during 1999 continued to call on the Turkish Government 
to comply with the Court's decision. In October the COE Committee of 
Ministers' Deputies voted to deplore Turkey's lack of compliance. A 
number of similar cases have been filed with the ECHR.
    Turkish Cypriot authorities in the past had approved most 
applications for Turkish Cypriots to participate in bicommunal meetings 
in the U.N.-controlled buffer zone, but on December 27, 1997, they 
suspended Turkish Cypriot participation in these meetings, pending a 
reevaluation of bicommunal activities. The ``suspension'' soon became 
an effective Turkish Cypriot ban on bicommunal contacts on Cyprus. 
Whereas in 1997 thousands of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots 
participated in bicommunal events, in which mixed groups met to discuss 
such topics as the environment, family violence, management techniques, 
business operations, and legal questions, the Turkish Cypriot ban 
halted almost all of those contacts. In addition to the ending of 
bicommunal events in the buffer zone, Turkish Cypriots may not visit 
the south for bicommunal contacts and Greek Cypriots may not visit the 
north for such contacts (unless they purchase a Turkish Cypriot 
``visa''). Turkish Cypriot authorities also attempted to interfere with 
some bicommunal events taking place outside Cyprus by prohibiting civil 
servants from participating. Enforcement of the policy has been 
inconsistent, with some public officials permitted to attend off-island 
bicommunal events. Private citizens have been allowed to travel to off-
island bicommunal events.
    Restrictions on the approximately 600 Greek Cypriots and Maronites 
living in the north were eased in recent years. Turkish Cypriot 
authorities usually grant the applications of Greek Cypriot residents 
in the north to visit the government-controlled area. The limit on 
visits to the south was extended in 1998 from 15 days per month to a 
total of 6 months per year. The applicants must return within the 
designated period or risk losing their right to return and to keep 
their property, although this rule rarely is enforced in practice. 
Turkish Cypriot authorities also eliminated the previous monthly limit 
on visits by close family relatives of Greek Cypriots resident in the 
north (it was once per month until 1996 and twice per month 
thereafter). A limit on overnight stays also was dropped. Greek 
Cypriots visiting from the south still may not travel in the north in 
their personal vehicles but must use taxis or buses and pay the 
crossing fee.
    Similar restrictions exist for visits by Maronite residents of the 
north to the government-controlled area, but they are applied much more 
loosely than restrictions on Greek Cypriots, and Maronite travel is 
relatively free. However, Maronite residents also must pay the required 
crossing fees.
    While in the past Turkish Cypriot authorities permitted school 
holiday and weekend visits to the north only by children under the ages 
of 16 (male) and 18 (female), the age limits for Maronite students and 
female Greek Cypriot students were lifted entirely in 1998. Male Greek 
Cypriot students still may visit the north only until age 16, since 
they are eligible for Greek Cypriot military service at age 17 and 
therefore are considered to be possible Greek Cypriot soldiers by the 
Turkish Cypriot authorities. Students pay a lower fee to cross the 
buffer zone, approximately $3.00 (2 pounds Sterling).
    According to regulations announced in October 1998, the Turkish 
Cypriot authorities no longer require Greek Cypriots or Maronites 
residing in the north to obtain police permits for internal travel in 
the north. They may use private vehicles registered and insured in the 
north. Implementation of the new policy has been inconsistent but 
appears to be improving.
    Although asylum legislation remains pending in the legislature, the 
Government of Cyprus regularly grants de facto first asylum. However, 
in 1998 and 1999 there were several instances in which groups of 
illegal immigrants attempting to reach Western Europe instead landed on 
Cyprus after their overcrowded vessels encountered problems at sea. The 
largest such group numbered over 100 persons, all of whom applied for 
political asylum after arriving in June 1998. After several months of 
detention in a hotel, during which representatives of the U.N. High 
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) interviewed the immigrants, only 23 
were granted asylum, and a large group was transferred to a jail. Most 
of those who did not receive asylum were deported against their will in 
late 1998 and early 1999. Prior to that, in October 1998, a special 
police unit was filmed by local television cameras kicking and beating 
the detainees with batons, while stopping a protest during which the 
detainees burned their bedding. An examination of the immigrants, 
mostly Africans, by a forensic pathologist revealed that most were 
injured, some seriously. The Attorney General ordered investigations 
into both incidents, and charges were brought against the officer in 
charge. His trial on charges of dereliction of duty opened in September 
and continued at year's end.
    With the increasing number of illegal immigrants finding their way 
to Cyprus in small boats, the Government of Cyprus is receiving a 
growing number of asylum appications: 300 to 400 per year. These cases 
are referred to the local UNHCR office for evaluation. If applicants 
meet the criteria for refugee status, they are permitted to remain and 
are given temporary work permits. However, applicants generally are not 
granted permanent resettlement rights: The Government claims that it 
already has enough responsibilities in caring for those displaced after 
the 1974 Turkish intervention. Applicants are permitted to remain until 
resettlement in another country can be arranged. In both the north and 
the south, authorities cooperated with U.N. refugee authorities. The 
UNHCR is developing improved procedures for dealing with asylum seekers 
in the north, and is aware of two such cases in the north during the 
year.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to 
        Change Their Government
    Multiparty political systems exist throughout Cyprus. Under the 
Republic's Constitution, political parties compete for popular support 
actively and without restriction. Suffrage is universal, and elections 
are held by secret ballot. Elections for the office of president are 
held every 5 years; in February 1998 President Clerides won reelection 
to a 5-year term. Elections for members of the House of Representatives 
are held every 5 years or less.
    The Turkish Cypriots living in northern Cyprus elect a leader and a 
representative body every 5 years or less; in December 1998 they chose 
a new ``National Assembly.'' In 1995 Turkish Cypriot voters elected 
Rauf Denktash as their leader in elections deemed by observers to be 
free and fair.
    Under the 1960 Constitution, voting took place on a communal basis. 
Therefore, since the breakdown in 1963 of bicommunal governing 
arrangements, and since the 1974 de facto partition of the island, 
Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled area are barred 
from voting there, although they may travel to the north to vote in 
elections. Similarly, Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the north 
are barred by law from participating in Turkish Cypriot elections. They 
are eligible to vote in Greek Cypriot elections but must travel to the 
south to exercise that right. They also may choose their own village 
officials, but those elected are not recognized by the Government of 
Cyprus.
    In both communities, women face no legal obstacles to participating 
in the political process. While clearly underrepresented in government, 
they hold some cabinet-level, judicial, and other senior positions. In 
the House of Representatives, women hold 4 of 56 seats; in the 
``National Assembly'' in the north, women hold 4 of 50 seats.
    In addition to their normal voting rights, the small Maronite, 
Armenian, and Latin (Roman Catholic) communities also elect special 
nonvoting representatives from their respective communities.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    Organizations in both parts of the island consider themselves human 
rights groups; however, they generally are concerned with alleged 
violations of the rights of their community's members by the other 
community. Groups with a broad human rights mission include 
organizations promoting awareness of domestic violence and others 
concerned with alleged police brutality.
    No restrictions prevent the formation of human rights groups. 
Representatives of international human rights organizations have access 
throughout the island.
    The United Nations, through the autonomous tripartite (United 
Nations, Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot) Committee on Missing Persons 
in Cyprus (CMP), is attempting to resolve the missing persons dilemma 
that remained from the intercommunal violence beginning in 1963-64 and 
the events of July 1974 and afterwards. The CMP has made little 
progress. However, in November the CMP met formally for the first time 
since early 1996 and agreed in principle to resume investigations in 
2000. In July 1997 the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot 
communities agreed to collect and share information on missing persons 
by the end of September 1997, outside of the CMP process. The 
information finally was exchanged in January 1998. Further progress has 
been delayed due to Turkish Cypriot reluctance to proceed without a 
full accounting first of who may have been killed in internal Greek 
Cypriot fighting in July 1974 prior to the landing of Turkish forces on 
Cyprus. In June and July the Government of Cyprus conducted exhumations 
of gravesites in the south that may contain the remains of persons 
missing since 1974. One previously unidentified Greek Cypriot has been 
identified through DNA testing; DNA testing continues on additional 
remains.
    A report by the European Commission of Human Rights, released in 
September, held Turkey responsible for violations of human rights in 
Cyprus stemming from the 1974 Turkish military intervention. The result 
of a complaint by the Government of Cyprus, the report rejected the 
Turkish argument that the ``TRNC'' is an independent state and instead 
ruled that it is ``a subordinate local administration of Turkey 
operating in northern Cyprus.'' Turkey was held responsible for 
continuing human rights violations against Greek Cypriots missing since 
1974, and their surviving relatives, and for violations concerning the 
homes and properties of displaced Greek Cypriots from 1974, as well as 
for violations of the rights of Greek Cypriots still living in north 
Cyprus. The report was to be referred to the European Court of Human 
Rights for a binding decision, a process that may take several years.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language, or Social Status
    Legislation in both communities provides for protection against 
discrimination based on sex, religion, or national, racial, or ethnic 
origin. While each community generally respects such laws, significant 
problems remain with the treatment of the Greek Cypriots and Maronites 
living in the north and, to a lesser extent, with the treatment of 
Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled area.
    Women.--Spousal abuse in the Greek Cypriot community is receiving 
increasing attention, and the problem is believed to be significant. A 
1994 law aimed at making spousal abuse easier to report and prosecute 
initially had little effect because key provisions were unfunded and 
unimplemented. Progress was made in implementation during the year, 
with all cases reported to the police being referred to the courts and 
measures taken to ensure that such cases are treated as serious 
criminal charges, not simply as family disputes. Many suspected cases 
of domestic violence still do not reach the courts, largely because of 
family pressure and the wife's economic dependence on her husband. An 
organization formed to address the domestic abuse problem reported 747 
cases during the year, compared with 718 cases in 1998, with 83.6 
percent of the reported victims women, 12.9 percent children, and 3.5 
percent men. A shelter for battered women opened in late 1998. Very few 
cases tried in the courts result in convictions. Little public 
discussion of domestic violence occurs in the Turkish Cypriot 
community, although a report issued by the ``Women's Research Center'' 
described such violence as common. A women's shelter opened in 1994. 
Domestic violence cases are rare in the Turkish Cypriot legal system, 
since they often are considered a ``family matter.''
    Republic of Cyprus law forbids forced prostitution. However, 
credible reports continue that women, generally East Asian or Eastern 
European night club performers, are trafficked and forced into 
prostitution in both communities (see Sections 6.c. and 6.f.).
    The Greek Cypriot press frequently reported on the mistreatment of 
some maids and other foreign workers (see Sections 6.c. and 6.e.).
    Throughout Cyprus women generally have the same legal status as 
men. In a significant step, Greek Cypriot women married to foreign 
husbands for the first time were given the right to transmit 
citizenship to their children automatically in new legislation passed 
in December 1998. Previously they were required to apply for Cypriot 
citizenship for their children, while Greek Cypriot men could transmit 
citizenship to their children automatically.
    In July 1998, a Turkish Cypriot law on marriage and divorce went 
into effect, which provided for more equal treatment of husbands and 
wives. Under the law, the man no longer is considered legally the head 
of the family and does not have the exclusive right to decide the 
family's place of residence. The wife may retain her surname but must 
add the husband's surname. Turkish Cypriot women may now marry non-
Moslem men. In cases of divorce, the court decides on a fair 
distribution of the family's assets, with each partner assured a 
minimum of 30 percent. In dividing assets, the judge must take into 
account which partner is receiving custody of the children and provide 
sufficient means to support them.
    Legal provisions in both communities requiring equal pay for men 
and women performing the same job are enforced effectively at the white 
collar level, but Turkish Cypriot women employed in the agricultural 
and textile sectors routinely are paid less than their male 
counterparts.
    Children.--Both the Government and the Turkish Cypriot authorities 
demonstrate a strong commitment to children's welfare. There is no 
difference in the health care and educational opportunities available 
to boys and girls. Free education through age 15 is compulsory in both 
communities.
    There is no societal pattern of abuse of children.
    People with Disabilities.--In Cyprus generally, disabled persons do 
not appear to be discriminated against in education or the provision of 
state services. In the Greek Cypriot community, disabled persons who 
apply for a public sector position are entitled to preference if they 
are deemed able to perform the required duties and their qualifications 
equal those of other applicants. Legislation also mandates that new 
public building and tourist facilities provide access for the disabled, 
although little has been done to enforce this law. In the Turkish 
Cypriot community, regulations require businesses to employ 1 disabled 
person for every 25 positions they fill, although enforcement is 
inconsistent. While awareness of the issue is increasing, the Turkish 
Cypriot community has not yet enacted legislation to mandate access for 
the disabled to public buildings and other facilities.
    Religious Minorities.--Greek Cypriots living in the north report 
that unused Orthodox churches continue to be vandalized. Turkish 
Cypriots complain that unused mosques in the south have been treated 
similarly. A previously unknown Greek Cypriot nationalist organization 
claimed responsibility for an arson attack on a mosque in the south in 
August. Damage was light, and the authorities pledged to repair the 
damage and increase protection of Muslim sites. No one has been 
arrested for the attack.
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities.--Both the Government of Cyprus 
and the Turkish Cypriot administration have constitutional or legal 
bars against discrimination. The basic agreement covering treatment of 
Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the north and Turkish Cypriots 
living in the south remains the 1975 Vienna III Agreement. This 
agreement provides for voluntary transfer of populations, free and 
unhindered access by the UNFICYP to Greek Cypriots and Maronites living 
in the north and Turkish Cypriots living in the south, and facilities 
for education, medical care, and religious worship.
    Some of the approximately 300 Turkish Cypriots living in the 
government-controlled area face difficulties in obtaining 
identification cards and other government documents, especially if they 
were born after 1974. Turkish Cypriots also appear to be subjected to 
surveillance by the Greek Cypriot police. However, they make few formal 
complaints to the UNFICYP. A number of Turkish Cypriots who worked in 
the government-controlled area but did not live there lost their jobs 
following the 1996 killing of two Greek Cypriots in the buffer zone. 
The Cyprus Government, which stated that it could not ensure the safety 
of the Turkish Cypriot workers, provided 6 months of unemployment 
benefits to those living in the mixed Greek Cypriot-Turkish Cypriot 
village of Pyla, but no one has been rehired.
    UNFICYP access to Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the north 
remains limited. Despite recent improvements in living conditions for 
Greek Cypriots and Maronites, no Greek-language educational facilities 
for Greek Cypriot or Maronite children in the north exist beyond the 
elementary level. Parents thus are forced in many instances to choose 
between keeping their children with them or sending them to the south 
for further education (in which case Turkish Cypriot authorities no 
longer allow them to return permanently to the north). All textbooks 
sent from the south to the Greek Cypriot schools must be screened by 
Turkish Cypriot authorities, causing lengthy delays and shortages of 
up-to-date texts. Both Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the north 
are unable to change their housing at will. Although the Vienna III 
Agreement provides for medical care by a doctor from the Greek Cypriot 
community, only care by a doctor registered with Turkish Cypriot 
authorities is permitted. Additional telephones have been installed for 
Greek Cypriots living in the north, although they, like Turkish 
Cypriots, must pay higher, ``international'' fees to call the south.
    In May a Maronite house in the village of Asomatos was demolished 
by the Turkish military. Military officials indicated that the action 
was an error and promised to rebuild the house. However, it had not yet 
been rebuilt by year's end. Maronites still lack some public services 
available in most other Turkish Cypriot areas.
    In 1998 Turkish Cypriot authorities announced that they were 
reviewing legislation banning Greek Cypriots and Maronites in the north 
from bequeathing real property to heirs residing in the south. Such 
property would no longer be seized by the Turkish Cypriot authorities 
but would be taken into temporary custody pending probate of the will. 
Implementation of this policy has been slow, and it is not yet possible 
to determine its future effectiveness.
Section 6. Worker Rights
    a. The Right of Association.--All workers, except for members of 
the police and military forces, have the legal right to form and join 
trade unions of their own choosing without prior authorization. In the 
government-controlled area, police officers also have the right to join 
associations that have the right to bargain collectively, although not 
to strike. More than 70 percent of the Greek Cypriot work force belong 
to independent trade unions. Approximately 50 to 60 percent of Turkish 
Cypriot private sector workers, and all public sector workers, belong 
to labor unions.
    In the Turkish Cypriot community, union officials allege that 
various firms have been successful in establishing ``company'' 
organizations and then applying pressure on workers to join these 
unions. Officials of independent labor unions also have accused the 
Turkish Cypriot authorities of creating rival public sector unions to 
weaken the independent unions. The International Labor Organization 
(ILO) had not yet acted on these complaints by year's end.
    In both communities, trade unions freely and regularly take stands 
on public policy issues affecting workers and maintain their 
independence from the authorities. Two of the major trade unions, one 
in each community, are affiliated closely with political parties. Both 
of the other major unions are independent.
    All workers have the right to strike, and several strikes occurred. 
However, in the northern part of the island, a 1978 court ruling gives 
employers an unrestricted right to hire replacement workers in the 
event of a strike, thereby limiting the effectiveness of the right to 
strike. Authorities of both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot 
communities have the power to curtail strikes in what they deem to be 
``essential services,'' although this power rarely is used.
    Unions in both parts of Cyprus are able to affiliate with 
international trade union organizations, although Greek Cypriot unions 
sometimes object to the recognition of Turkish Cypriot unions formed 
after 1963.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--Trade unions 
and confederations by law are free to organize and bargain collectively 
throughout Cyprus. This right is observed in practice in the 
government-controlled area, and most wages and benefits are set by 
freely negotiated collective agreements. However, Greek Cypriot 
collective bargaining agreements are not enforceable. In instances when 
such agreements are believed to have been infringed, the Ministry of 
Labor is requested to investigate the claim. If the Ministry is unable 
to resolve the dispute, the union may call a strike to support its 
demands.
    In the Turkish Cypriot community, where inflation exceeded 60 
percent during the year, wage levels are reviewed several times a year 
for both the private sector and public sector workers, and a 
corresponding cost-of-living raise is established. A special commission 
composed of five representatives each from organized labor, employers, 
and the authorities conducts the review. Union leaders contend that 
private sector employers are able to discourage union activity because 
the enforcement of labor and occupational safety regulations is 
sporadic, and penalties for antiunion practices are minimal. As in the 
Greek Cypriot community, parties to a dispute may request mediation by 
the authorities.
    Small export processing zones exist in the port of Larnaca and in 
Famagusta, but the laws governing working conditions and actual 
practice are the same as those outside the zones.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--Forced or compulsory 
labor, including that performed by children, is prohibited by law, and 
this prohibition generally is observed. However, there were credible 
reports that foreign women were forced into prostitution (see Sections 
5 and 6.f.). Foreign maids and illegal foreign workers allegedly are 
subject to the nonpayment of wages and the threat of deportation (see 
Section 6.e.).
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--In both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, 
the minimum age for the employment of children in an ``industrial 
undertaking'' is 16 years of age. Turkish Cypriots may be employed in 
apprentice positions at the age of 15. There are labor inspectors in 
both communities. However, in family-run shops it is common to see 
younger children working after school, and according to press reports, 
children as young as 11 or 12 years of age work in orchards during 
their school holidays in the Turkish Cypriot community. Laws prohibit 
forced and bonded child labor, and these laws are enforced effectively 
in both communities (see Section 6.c.).
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--The legislated minimum wage in 
the Greek Cypriot community, which is reviewed every year, is 
approximately $470 (257 Cyprus pounds) per month for shop assistants, 
practical nurses, clerks, hairdressers, and nursery assistants (rising 
to $509 [278 Cyprus pounds] after 6 months' employment). This amount is 
insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and 
family. All other occupations are covered under collective bargaining 
agreements between trade unions and employers within the same economic 
sector, and the wages set in these agreements are significantly higher 
than the legislated minimum wage. The legislated minimum wage in the 
Turkish Cypriot area, while subject to frequent review because of high 
inflation, was approximately $256 (138 Cyprus pounds) per month as of 
September. This amount is insufficient to provide a decent standard of 
living for a worker and family. Unskilled workers typically earn about 
$380 (205 Cyprus pounds) per month, which is barely adequate to support 
a family.
    In the Greek Cypriot community, the standard workweek in the 
private sector averages 39 hours for white-collar workers and 38 hours 
for blue-collar workers. In the public sector, it is 38 hours during 
the winter and 35 hours in the summer. In the Turkish Cypriot 
community, the standard workweek is 40 hours in the winter and 35 hours 
in the summer. Labor inspectors effectively enforce these laws.
    Reports on the mistreatment of maids and other foreign workers are 
frequent in the Greek Cypriot press. These reports usually involve 
allegations that maids, often from East or South Asia, were treated 
inhumanely by their employers or fired without cause in violation of 
their contracts. Many women do not complain to authorities, fearing 
retribution from their employers. Those who do file charges run the 
risk of being fired and then deported.
    A significant percentage of the labor force in the north consists 
of illegal workers, mostly from Turkey. According to some estimates, 
such illegal workers constitute as much as 25 percent of the total work 
force. There are frequent allegations that these workers are subject to 
mistreatment, including nonpayment of wages and threats of deportation.
    In recent years, steps were taken to improve health and safety 
standards in the workplace in the government-controlled area. In 1997 a 
law took effect that harmonized health and safety standards with those 
in the European Union (EU). The law incorporates EU principles and 
standards for health and safety in the workplace and complies fully 
with the 1981 ILO Convention on occupational health and safety. A 
second 1997 law requires employers to provide insurance liability 
coverage for work-related injuries.
    Occupational safety and health regulations are administered 
sporadically at best in the Turkish Cypriot area. In both areas, 
factory inspectors process complaints and inspect business in order to 
ensure that occupational safety laws are observed. Workers in the 
government-controlled area can remove themselves from dangerous work 
conditions without risking loss of employment. Turkish Cypriot workers 
who file complaints do not receive satisfactory legal protection and 
may face dismissal.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--New legislation that would make 
trafficking a felony was under consideration in the Cypriot legislature 
at year's end; it would also provide for support for victims. A new law 
also was under consideration at year's end in the Turkish Cypriot 
``National Assembly'' that would regulate the hiring of women in 
nightclubs but would not prohibit trafficking. A holdover from British 
preindependence law currently makes it illegal in both communities to 
procure a woman for prostitution, although the crime is only a 
misdemeanor. Corruption among law enforcement and immigration personnel 
has been the primary obstacle to effective policing in both 
communities.
    During the year, credible reports continued that women were 
trafficked into both communities for the purpose of prostitution. 
Agents in Eastern Europe recruited young women for prostitution in the 
Greek Cypriot community. The women entered either illegally after 
authorities were bribed or on temporary 3-month work permits. They then 
sometimes were forced to surrender their passports or forced to stay 
beyond the period of their work permits and in some cases were not paid 
their full salaries. The authorities arrested nightclub operators for 
profiting from prostitution, and the Government made some effort to 
protect women who bring complaints against employers by allowing them 
to remain to press charges or facilitate their return home. However, 
many of the women are reluctant to press charges, fearing retaliation 
by employers or deportation. A similar pattern exists of recruiting and 
hiring of East European women to work in nightclubs in the Turkish 
Cypriot community, and reports persist of restrictions on nightclub 
workers, such as confiscation of their passports by employers.
                                 ______
                                 

                             CZECH REPUBLIC

    The Czech Republic is a constitutional parliamentary democracy with 
a bicameral Parliament. Following elections in June 1998, Prime 
Minister Milos Zeman formed a minority Government comprising almost 
exclusively members of his left-of-center Social Democratic Party. The 
Parliament elects the President for a 5-year term. President Vaclav 
Havel was reelected in January 1998 by a narrow margin and remains an 
internationally recognized advocate of human rights and social justice. 
Although the country essentially has completed the reform of political 
structures initiated after the 1989 ``Velvet Revolution,'' some 
institutions are still in a state of transformation. The judiciary is 
independent legally but is hampered by structural and procedural 
deficiencies and a lack of resources.
    The Ministry of the Interior oversees the police. The civilian 
internal security service, known as the Security and Information 
Service (BIS), is independent of ministry control but reports to 
Parliament and the Prime Minister's office. Police and BIS authorities 
generally observe constitutional and legal protection of individual 
rights in carrying out their responsibilities. However, some members of 
the police committed human rights abuses.
    The economy is market-based, with over two-thirds of gross domestic 
product (GDP) produced by the private sector. The economy recently has 
contracted as the transition to a full market economy stalled because 
of unfinished structural reforms, including industrial restructuring, 
privatization, modernization of the commercial code, and transparency 
in decisionmaking. The sharpest recession in the country's history 
occurred in 1998 when the economy contracted by 2.7 percent. Inflation 
has been brought down sharply in recent years, while unemployment 
reached 8 percent and was expected to reach double-digit levels by 2000 
as long overdue industrial restructuring was implemented. The work 
force is employed primarily in industry, retail trade, and 
construction. Leading exports are machinery and transport equipment, 
and intermediate manufactured products. GDP per capita in 1998 reached 
approximately $5,500.
    The Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens; 
however, problems remain in several areas. Occasional police violence 
remains a problem. Lengthy pretrial detention and long delays in trials 
are problems, due to a lack of resources for the judicial system. There 
is some violence and discrimination against women. Discrimination and 
sporadic skinhead violence against the Romani community remain 
problems. Trafficking in women and children is a problem. In January 
the Government formed a Human Rights Council, headed by the 
Commissioner for Human Rights, to advise the Government on human rights 
issues and prepare legislative proposals for improving human rights in 
the country.
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.
    In February police launched an investigation into the 1945 murder 
of 30 Sudeten Germans in Tocov, a small town outside of Karlovy Vary. 
In November police ended the investigation after they were unable to 
find any persons who could confirm the testimony of German witnesses or 
who could remember the names of those Czechs who allegedly carried out 
the murders.
    b. Disappearance.--There were no reports of politically motivated 
disappearances.
    c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment.--The Constitution prohibits torture, and there were no 
reports of such practices; however, police occasionally use excessive 
force and abuse their authority. In April the Czech Helsinki Committee 
released a report that documented widespread police violence.
    Police were criticized for a forcible intervention on May 1, when 
they pushed approximately 300 anarchists away from a demonstration 
route planned by an equally large group of skinheads. Although the 
skinhead rally was registered legally with city authorities and the 
anarchist demonstration was not, some human rights activist leaders and 
commentators questioned the action as a form of police protection for 
neo-Nazis. In June police were criticized for failing to control 
demonstrators at the ``Global Street Party,'' a demonstration of some 
5,000 anarchists and radical environmentalists, when fringe groups 
deviated from the planned route and attacked a television station, 
restaurant franchises, and a Western embassy building.
    The police force has been restructured significantly, and many new 
officers have been recruited since the 1989 revolution. Nevertheless, 
public approval ratings for police remain low, and corruption remains a 
problem. During the year, 345 members of the national police force were 
charged with criminal offenses, half of which were committed off duty. 
These include cases of police corruption, which can and do result in 
prosecutions. The most common offense cited was policemen fining 
motorists for traffic offenses and then keeping the money. The April 
Czech Helsinki Committee report also documented corruption and 
discrimination against women during recruitment of officers (see 
Section 5). Police sometimes failed to take sufficient action in cases 
of threats or attacks against Roma.
    In March authorities charged a police officer in Ostrov for making 
racial insults against a group of Roma. The same officer was sentenced 
to a 1-year suspended sentence for wearing a swastika in public in 
1998. However, he was suspended from the police force only after he 
made racial insults.
    The investigation of a special police unit alleged to have used 
excessive force to contain a group of anarchists and radical 
environmentalists rioting in downtown Prague in 1998 is ongoing. In 
November an official from the police force's investigative office said 
that up to four officers could face charges of abuse of power and 
unwarranted use of force in connection with the incident.
    The case of a Brno city police officer charged with using excessive 
force to break up a late night party outside a theater in 1995 still 
was awaiting a formal court decision at year's end. In the meantime, 
the officer continues to serve on the police force but faces suspension 
or other internal disciplinary action if convicted.
    The trial of three Communist-era investigators charged with 
torturing political prisoners in the 1950's is currently before the 
District Court in Uherske Hradiste. In May two former police officials 
were sentenced to 3\1/2\ and 3 years for their part in the police 
intervention against demonstrators on November 17, 1989; they appealed 
the decision, which still was pending at year's end.
    The Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of 
Communism (UDV--see Section 1.e.) continued to investigate cases of 
torture and misconduct from the Communist era.
    Skinhead violence against Roma and other minorities remained a 
problem (see Section 5).
    Prison conditions meet minimum international standards. There is 
overcrowding in some prisons; as of August the prison system was at 118 
percent of capacity. As of December, there were 23,054 prisoners in the 
country. There are 9,890 prison guards, or 1 guard for every 4 
prisoners. Attorney and family visits are permitted. The authorities 
follow these guidelines in practice.
    The Government permits visits by human rights monitors.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--The law forbids 
arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government observes this 
prohibition in practice. Police may hold persons without charge for up 
to 48 hours, during which time they have the right to counsel. The lack 
of experienced police investigators and qualified judges, together with 
a still evolving legal environment, have contributed to a backlog of 
court cases. The Ministry of Justice estimates that 400 judges are 
needed to fill vacant positions. Pretrial detention may last legally as 
long as 4 years for cases considered ``exceptionally grave'' under the 
Criminal Code. Pretrial detention for most crimes may last as long as 2 
or 3 years, with mandatory judicial review intervals beginning at the 
end of the first 6 months of detention. If the court does not approve 
continued detention during a judicial review, the suspect must be 
released. In practice few pretrial detainees are held for longer than 2 
years. The law does not allow bail for certain serious crimes. A 
suspect may petition the appropriate investigating authorities at any 
time for release from detention. The average length of pretrial 
detention is now 5 months and 21 days. At year's end, the number of 
pre-trial detainees was 6,919, about one-third of the total prison 
population.
    The law prohibits exile, and the Government observes this 
prohibition in practice.
    Since 1993 local courts and foreign police have expelled to 
Slovakia ``Slovaks'' without proper citizenship or residency papers. 
Some of these expulsions involve ``Slovak'' Roma who have never been in 
Slovakia. By the first half of 1997 (latest available statistics) a 
total of 851 ``Slovaks'' had been expelled administratively or 
judicially by the authorities. A February 1998 presidential amnesty 
(which was expected to affect three-quarters of all expulsion sentences 
issued between January 1, 1993 and February 2, 1998) granted amnesty to 
those receiving expulsion sentences for crimes in which the punishment 
is less than 5 years' imprisonment. However, according to one 
nongovernmental organization (NGO) that follows this issue, some courts 
have not implemented this amnesty. Courts have not imposed expulsion 
sentences since the implementation of a new citizenship law, which 
allows ``Slovaks'' and others to legalize their status.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--The Constitution provides for an 
independent judiciary, and it is impartial and independent in practice. 
Judges are not fired or transferred for political reasons. The 
Judiciary is hampered by structural and procedural deficiencies and a 
lack of resources.
    The court system consists of district, regional, and high courts. 
The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal. In addition, the 
separate Constitutional Court has final authority for cases concerning 
the constitutionality of legislation.
    The law stipulates that persons charged with criminal offenses are 
entitled to fair and open public trials. They have the right to be 
informed of their legal rights and of the charges against them, to 
consult with counsel, and to present a defense. The state provides 
lawyers for indigent defendants in criminal and some civil cases 
through the Bar Association. All defendants enjoy a presumption of 
innocence and have the right to refuse to testify against themselves. 
They may appeal any judgments decided against them. The authorities 
observe these rights in practice.
    The 1991 lustration law, passed to prevent Communist-era 
collaborators from enjoying senior government responsibilities, 
continues to bar many former Communist Party officials, members of the 
people's militia, and suspected secret police collaborators from 
holding a wide range of elective and appointive offices for 5 years, 
including appointive positions in state-owned companies, academia, and 
the media. In 1995 Parliament extended this legal constraint to the 
year 2000, overriding a veto by President Havel. Some private employers 
also have required applicants to produce lustration certificates 
proving noncollaboration. By August the special government office 
handling lustration requests processed approximately 6,000 lustration 
certificates at the request of individuals, bringing the total since 
1991 to 366,000. During the year, some 2.7 percent of applicants did 
not receive confirmation of a clear record because of suspected 
collaboration, a slightly lower percentage than the overall average of 
3.2 percent since 1991. Those who did not receive confirmation of a 
clear record may file a civil suit against the Interior Ministry for a 
charge similar to slander. In the period from mid-October 1996 to 
September 1997, 31 such suits were filed. Of these 31 suits, about half 
of those decided to date were ``fully successful,'' and another quarter 
were ``partially successful,'' although more recent data are not 
available.
    Defenders of the lustration law argue that individuals who 
systematically destroyed the lives of others in order to gain 
advantages for themselves within the Communist system should not be 
entrusted with high state responsibilities. However, the law has been 
criticized for violating human rights principles prohibiting 
discrimination in employment and assigning collective guilt. It also 
has been criticized because the screening process is based on the 
records of the Communist secret police, which many believe are 
incomplete or unreliable. Citizens unjustly accused of collaboration 
may suffer diminished career prospects and damaged personal 
reputations. The 1997 Agenda 2000 report by the European Union notes 
the law's continuing existence with some concern.
    Some actions taken by state authorities and the Communist Party 
during the 1948-1989 Communist regime are being investigated as 
criminal acts under a 1993 law by a government office (UDV) established 
for this purpose. The UDV was established in 1995 and is an independent 
part of the Czech Police Office of Investigations. The UDV is empowered 
to launch and conduct prosecutions and propose filing suits to state 
attorney's offices. In investigations of 2,116 cases under its 
jurisdiction, it has recommended action against 79 individuals, with 49 
ending in criminal charges. Sentences were handed down in eight cases. 
By year's end, charges were dropped in 320 of the pending cases for 
various reasons, including lack of evidence, amnesty, or death of the 
accused. In addition, three cases had reached the trial phase and are 
to be decided in the next few months. The UDV also is working with 
Charles University to prepare ``moral trials'' to discuss crimes whose 
offenders cannot be punished due to their death or the expired statute 
of limitations on the cases. It targets primarily cases of: Torture 
(see Section 1.c.); border shootings; treason connected with the 1968 
Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia; state persecution of opponents 
of the Communist regime; and investigation of Czech authorities who 
negligently allowed exposure of citizens to hazardous waste after the 
nuclear accident in Chernobyl. Although the statute of limitations for 
many of the Communist-era crimes under investigation by the UDV was set 
to expire in 2000, Parliament voted in December to suspend the statue 
of limitations for serious crimes committed during the Communist regime 
and enabled the UDV to continue investigating these cases. In late 
August, a prosecutor for the UDV asked the Prosecutor General to indict 
former Communist officials Milos Jakes and Jozef Lenart. The two were 
to be charged with high treason for attending a meeting at the Soviet 
Embassy in Prague on the day after the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion and 
for discussing the creation of a new ``workers' and farmers' '' 
government; they were not indicted by year's end. In December the 
Supreme Court ruled that a criminal case against a Communist-era judge 
should be reopened. A district court ruled earlier that Pavel Vitek, 
who was one of the judges in a show trial against seven persons who 
were accused falsely of murdering Communist officials in 1951, could 
not be tried for his role in the case because the statute of 
limitations had expired. However, the Supreme Court ruled that Vitek 
could be tried for aiding and abetting murder.
    There were no reports of political prisoners.
    f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--Electronic surveillance, the tapping of telephones, 
and the interception of mail require a court order; government 
authorities generally respect these prohibitions in practice, and 
violations are subject to effective legal sanction.
    In February and March armed police in Rokycany conducted several 
searches without warrants of Romani homes, after local Romani activists 
sent a letter to the mayor protesting racial discrimination. The house 
of the son of prominent Roma rights activist Ondrej Gina also was 
searched. The Roma filed complaints against the police for these 
searches. In November Rokycany authorities charged Gina with inciting 
racial hatred and damaging the city's reputation (see Section 2.a.).
    On December 27, former Health Minister Ivan David alleged that a 
bugging device was installed in his office a few months prior to his 
resignation on December, although he produced no evidence to 
substantiate his claim.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
    a. Freedom of Speech and Press.--The law provides for freedom of 
speech and of the press, and the Government respects this right in 
practice. Individuals can and do speak out on political issues and 
freely criticize the Government and public figures. A wide variety of 
newspapers, magazines, and journals, owned by a variety of Czech and 
foreign investors, are published without government interference. The 
press and broadcast media continue to operate under outdated and 
insufficient laws, which are now in the process of being replaced by 
legislation conforming to European Union norms. A Communist-era law 
against ``defamation of the Republic'' was revoked in 1997.
    The electronic media are independent. There are 3 national 
television stations, 1 public and 2 private, and more than 60 private 
radio stations in addition to Czech Public Radio. The leading 
television channel, Nova, is privately owned, although a widely 
publicized dispute about the channel's ownership and alleged fraud and 
serious commercial misconduct by the license holder is now the subject 
of international arbitration. Citizens also have access to foreign 
broadcasts via satellite, cable, and the Internet.
    A nine-member Television and Radio Council has limited regulatory 
responsibility for policymaking and answers to the parliamentary media 
committee, which exercises broad oversight of the Council and must 
approve its members. The Council can issue and revoke radio and 
television licenses and monitors programming. The Council was 
criticized widely during the year for its lack of initiative and 
ineffective action in addressing a high profile ownership dispute at 
the country's largest private television channel.
    In April Amnesty International placed the country on its blacklist 
of countries that violate freedom of speech and expression because of 
the criminal arrest of reporter Zdenek Zukal in 1998. Zukal faces three 
charges of criminal libel for reporting that police had provided false 
information in their investigation of high-level corruption in Olomouc. 
Zukal had been charged originally with slander for publishing documents 
he knew--or should have known--to be forgeries. Local authorities later 
changed the charge to false accusation 1 day before a planned 
presidential pardon; the new charges still were pending at year's end.
    In November the mayor and city council of Rokycany formally pressed 
charges against the prominent national Romani leader Ondrej Gina for 
remarks that he allegedly published about the mayor and the city on an 
Internet site about alleged discrimination against Roma. Local police 
concluded that these remarks constituted a criminal act and turned the 
case over to the state prosecutor for action. The major and city 
council argued that Gina's remarks were malicious enough to constitute 
``defamation of the Czech nation'' and ``harm to the reputation of the 
city of Rokycany at home and abroad.'' The charges against Gina include 
slander, assault on a public office, and inciting racial discord. The 
case was still pending at year's end.
    Earlier in the year, Rokycany police conducted a search without a 
warrant of the home of Gina's son, after Gina sent a letter to the 
mayor protesting racial discrimination (see Section 1.f.).
    On June 23, a Prague court prohibited Tomas Kebza, deputy chairman 
of the rightwing Republican Youth Party and editor of the weekly 
Republika, from publishing for 10 years for his two articles that 
contained anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi views and that were aimed at 
suppressing the rights of other citizens (see Section 5).
    In May the Government approved a press bill, which was criticized 
strongly by media experts. The most controversial provision, which 
would require the press to present responses from persons or parties 
who believe that their reputations have been sullied by media reports, 
even if the information was correct, was later removed. Opponents of 
the measure maintained that this provision would create an unfair 
burden on the press and represented an unwise regulation of free 
expression. In December the amended version of the bill was approved by 
the lower house of Parliament but returned to the Senate for further 
changes. Those modifications are still pending. International NGO's and 
the Council of Europe, which criticized the legislation, are to 
continue monitoring this process closely.
    In May the Parliament passed a freedom of information act that was 
to take effect on January 1, 2000. The law provides for freedom of 
access to information under the control of state and local authorities 
as well as other institutions affecting the rights of citizens.
    The law provides for academic freedom but forbids activities by 
established political parties at universities.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The Constitution 
provides for the right of persons to assemble peacefully, and the 
Government respects this right in practice, although it may restrict 
assemblies that promote hatred and intolerance, advocate suppression of 
individual or political rights, or otherwise would jeopardize the 
safety of the participants. Police generally do not interfere with 
spontaneous, peaceful demonstrations for which organizers lack a 
permit. Police arrested some skinheads at a May 1 rally (see Section 
5).
    The law forbids political party activity at universities (see 
Section 2.a.).
    The Constitution provides for the right of persons to associate 
freely and to form political parties, and the Government respects this 
right in practice. Either the Government or the President may submit a 
proposal to the Supreme Court calling for a political party to be 
disbanded; during the year the Supreme Court cancelled the 
registrations of six parties that existed only on paper. The 
cancellations, part of a policy begun by the 1998 interim government to 
maintain an active registry, were mere formalities, as the 
organizations in question had ceased to exist in practice. 
Organizations, associations, foundations, and political parties are 
required to register with local officials or at the Interior Ministry, 
but there is no evidence that this registration is either coercive or 
withheld arbitrarily. Prime Minister Zeman has called periodically for 
the Interior Ministry to reexamine or cancel the official registrations 
of skinhead organizations and others propagating racial hatred or 
fascism, but no action has been taken to date.
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution provides for religious 
freedom, and the Government respects this right in practice. The State 
subsidizes all religions that are registered officially with the 
Ministry of Culture. There are 21 state-recognized religions. To 
register a church must have at least 10,000 adult members permanently 
residing in the country. For any churches that the World Council of 
Churches already has recognized, only 500 adult members permanently 
residing in the country are necessary. Churches registered prior to 
1991 are not required to meet these conditions. The Jewish community, 
which numbers only a few thousand, constitutes one such exception. One 
group, the Unification Church (UC), was denied registration in January 
when the Department of Churches determined that it had obtained the 
required proof of membership by fraud; the UC is contesting the 
decision in court. Unregistered religious groups, such as the small 
Muslim minority, may not own community property legally, although they 
are otherwise free to assemble and worship in the manner of their 
choice. Their members can and do issue publications without 
interference.
    Missionaries for various religious groups, including the Church of 
Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses, are present 
in the country and proselytize without hindrance. In March and May 
respectively, the Government established two church-state commissions 
to improve church-state relations. One is a ``political'' commission 
with the presence of all parties currently in Parliament, and the 
second is a ``specialist'' commission composed of experts including 
lawyers, economists, and church representatives. The commissions advise 
the Government on church-state relations, the status of churches and 
methods of their financing, and church-related property questions.
    A court in Jicin stripped a woman who was a former member of 
Jehovah's Witnesses of guardianship of her 6-year-old daughter, for 
allegedly not taking her daughter to the doctor but instead to 
Jehovah's Witnesses meetings and for preventing her from socializing 
with other children. The court granted custody to the father and 
allowed the mother to see her daughter for only 6 hours per month. 
Further details about the case and the role of the mother's former 
religious affiliation in the court's decision are not available.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--The law provides for freedom of movement 
to travel domestically and abroad, as well as for emigration and 
repatriation, and the Government respects these provisions in practice. 
Czechs who emigrated during the period of Communist rule frequently 
return to visit or live. A law passed in September permits such persons 
to regain Czech citizenship without having to relinquish a foreign 
citizenship that they acquired during that time. Citizenship is not 
revoked for political reasons.
    The law includes provisions for granting refugee and asylee status 
in accordance with the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of 
Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. A legal and institutional framework is 
in place for the processing of refugees and asylees, although the 
current law is under revision to close a few gaps. The Government 
provides first asylum and cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner 
for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting 
refugees. The Czech Republic is both a transit and destination country 
for migrants. The Government fully funds an integration program to 
assist those granted refugee status in locating housing and receiving 
other social assistance. A reception center, three camps, and six 
integration centers are provided for recognized refugees. As of August, 
the Government granted citizenship to 3,200 former citizens of Slovakia 
and 564 former citizens of other countries; however, the new 
citizenship law passed in September is expected to enable thousands 
more ``Slovaks'' to become citizens (see Section 5). In April the 
Government established temporary protection status for Kosovar Albanian 
refugees and opened 7 humanitarian centers to house 825 refugees 
relocated from overcrowded camps in Albania and the Former Yugoslav 
Republic of Macedonia. According to estimates by the UNHCR, there were 
between 2,000 and 3,000 more unregistered Kosovar Albanians in the 
country who were staying in hotels along the border with Germany and 
were waiting to be smuggled into that country. By fall most of these 
refugees returned to Kosovo at their own request.
    In the last 8 years, 21,824 asylum applications were filed, of 
which 1,857 received formal refugee status for resettlement. As of 
December 1, 62 persons had received refugee status out of a total of 
6,489 applications. A total of 17,877 foreigners have requested asylum 
in the country since 1990, and 1,817 (approximately 10 percent) 
qualified for asylum status. Citizens from Afghanistan, the former 
Yugoslavia, India, Sri Lanka, and Iraq submitted the most asylum 
requests during the year. In addition, migrants from economically 
disadvantaged countries in Central and Eastern Europe often enter the 
country to take up illegal residency or in transit to the West. In 1998 
border police had prevented a record 44,000 illegal entry attempts, 
which more than doubled the average of the preceding 3 years. During 
the first half of the year, 15,400 illegal migrants were stopped at the 
borders, many of whom were citizens of the former Yugoslavia.
    A growing concern is the smuggling of large groups of refugees and 
economic migrants into and across the country, which lacks specific 
laws criminalizing alien smuggling. Organized rings promoting illegal 
employment abroad operate with impunity, freely advertising their 
services in dozens of local papers and on the Internet. In spite of 
existing legislative gaps, the police are taking action against large-
scale trafficking rings under organized crime statutes. The authorities 
are working with neighboring countries to tighten border controls. In 
December Parliament passed new legislation on residence and visas. The 
new law restricts considerably previous rules for change of status and 
extension of stay and requires visas in advance for everyone but 
tourists. In January military observation patrols were instigated along 
the Czech-Slovak border to enhance police efforts. In June a record 91 
illegal migrants were caught crossing the Czech-Slovak border on foot. 
An organized crime investigation involving Czech-German police in April 
broke up an international ring believed to have smuggled thousands of 
persons over the past 5 years. Police arrested 43 suspects, and an 
additional 9 were arrested in Germany. Illegal migrant groups in these 
cases were composed primarily of persons from Ukraine, Iraq, 
Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia, and Sri Lanka, many of whom claimed 
asylum in the Czech Republic. There were no reports of the forced 
return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to 
        Change Their Government
    The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their 
government by democratic means, and citizens exercise this right in 
practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis 
of universal suffrage. Citizens above the age of 18 are eligible to 
vote by secret ballot in nationwide and local elections. Opposition 
groups, including political parties, function openly and participate 
without hindrance in the political process. Citizens may join political 
organizations or vote for the political party of their choice without 
government interference. Some persons, predominantly Roma, who were 
enfranchised citizens under the former Czechoslovakia, were unable to 
obtain Czech citizenship at the time of the split with Slovakia, 
despite birth or long residency in the Czech Republic. They lacked 
voting and other rights due to restrictions under the existing 
citizenship laws. However, the new citizenship law passed in September 
is expected to remedy the situation for thousands of such persons (see 
Section 5).
    The Government of Prime Minister Milos Zeman took office in August 
1998. The Government consists almost exclusively of members of the 
Prime Minister's left-of-center Social Democratic party, the first 
nonrightist government since 1989. In addition to the largest 
opposition party, (former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus' Civil Democratic 
Party), which has agreed to tolerate and support the Government, the 
opposition consists of the Communist Party and a coalition of four 
small center-right parties. The Constitution mandates elections to 
Parliament at least every 4 years, based on proportional representation 
in eight large electoral districts. To enter Parliament, a party must 
obtain 5 percent of the votes cast in the election. The President is 
elected by Parliament and serves a 5-year term. The President has 
limited constitutional powers but may use a suspense veto to return 
legislation to Parliament, which then can override that veto by a 
simple majority.
    There are no restrictions, in law or in practice, on women's 
participation in politics; however, they are underrepresented, and 
relatively few women hold high public office. None of the 16 cabinet 
ministers in the Government at year's end were women. The 200-member 
Chamber of Deputies has only 29 female deputies, including 1 deputy 
speaker. There are 9 female senators in the 81-member Senate. The 
President of the Senate, elected in December 1998, is a woman.
    No seats are reserved in either house for ethnic minorities. 
Slovaks, of whom there are an estimated 300,000, are almost all 
"Czechoslovaks" who elected to live in the Czech Republic after the 
split. For the most part, these Slovaks define their interests in the 
context of Czech politics, not along ethnic lines; there is no Slovak 
party in Parliament.
    Most of the estimated 200,000 to 250,000 Roma have not been fully 
integrated into Czech political life (see Section 5). Roma themselves 
have been unable to unite behind a program or set of goals to advance 
their interests within the democratic structures of the country. Few 
Roma serve in local government structures, although some have been 
appointed to advisory positions in government ministries. There is 
currently one representative of Romani background in the Parliament.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    Human rights groups operate without government restriction, and 
government officials generally are cooperative and responsive to their 
views. The best-known human rights groups are the Czech Helsinki 
Committee and the Tolerance Foundation (an umbrella organization); 
there are also many single-issue groups.
    On July 8, Parliament passed the final legislation needed to create 
a $14 million (500 million Czech crowns) endowment to be used by 39 
NGO's that work on issues of social welfare, health, culture, 
education, human rights protection, and the environment.
    In September 1998, U.N. Human Rights Commission expert Petr Uhl was 
appointed to a newly created position as Commissioner for Human Rights. 
The Human Rights Commissioner serves as head of the government 
Committee for Nationalities and of the Interministerial Commission for 
Romani Community Affairs, established in 1997 (see Section 5). In 
January a Council for Human Rights was established with 10 
representatives of government ministries and 10 human rights activists. 
The Council for Human Rights was created to advise the Government on 
human rights issues and propose legislation to improve the observation 
of human rights in the country.
    In December the Parliament passed legislation mandating the 
establishment of the office of the ombudsman, which was to be created 
in 2000. The legislation provides for Parliament to select an ombudsman 
for a 6-year term from a pool of candidates nominated by the President 
and the Senate.
    In each house of Parliament there is a petition committee for human 
rights and nationalities, which includes a subcommittee for 
nationalities. A government-sponsored Council for Nationalities advises 
the Cabinet on minority affairs. In this body, Slovaks and Roma have 
three representatives each; Poles and Germans, two each; and Hungarians 
and Ukrainians, one each. There is also a government commission staffed 
by members of the NGO and journalist communities that monitors 
interethnic violence.
    Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status
    The Constitution provides for the equality of citizens and 
prohibits discrimination. Health care, education, retirement, and other 
social services generally are provided without regard to race, sex, 
religion, disability, or social status. In practice Roma face 
discrimination in such areas as education, employment, and housing.
    Women.--The actual extent of violence against women is unknown; 
however, some studies by experts indicate that it likely is common. 
Public debate about it is rare, despite the efforts of womens' groups 
to focus public attention on the problem. In late 1998, the Government 
introduced a comprehensive awareness and prevention program designed to 
address issues of trafficking, abuse, and violence against women. ROSA, 
an NGO that helps women in trouble, estimates that 1 in 10 women in 
domestic situations suffer from emotional or physical abuse, and that 
30 percent of the abusers are university educated. The press 
occasionally reported on the problem of violence against women and 
trafficking in prostitutes. A 1998 research study conducted by Prague's 
Sexological Institute indicated that 13 percent of women are forced 
into sexual intercourse under threat of violence. Spouses or partners 
are responsible for 51 percent of rapes, with an additional 37 percent 
of the attacks committed by men known to the victims. Only 12 percent 
of rape victims are attacked by complete strangers. According to police 
statistics, there were 675 rapes reported countrywide in 1998, although 
researchers at the Institute estimate that only 3.3 percent of rape 
victims report the crime to the police. Approximately 80 percent of 
criminal rape cases are solved. Gender studies experts reported that 
women were ashamed to report rape or speak about it, and that the 
police were not equipped to help, either by attitude or training. 
However, to improve police responsiveness and prosecution efforts, the 
Ministry of Interior started training officers in protocols for 
investigating family violence and sexual crime cases in 1998.
    According to Elektra, a help center for abused women, rape victims 
can seek psychological help through any help line or crisis center. 
Crisis centers that help rape victims include White Circle of Safety, 
an association for crime victims that provides free psychiatric and 
legal help, and Riaps, a help line that counsels persons who experience 
any kind of trauma. A total of 54 state supported shelters with 771 
beds accept women who have been raped or abused in most major cities 
and towns, and local NGO's provide medical and social assistance to 
women. According to NGO's, the situation has improved in recent years, 
but there still are not enough shelter spaces to meet the demand.
    Legislation does not address spousal abuse specifically; however, 
the Criminal Code covers other forms of domestic violence. An attack is 
considered criminal if the victim's condition warrants medical 
treatment (incapacity to work) for 7 or more days. If medical treatment 
lasts less than 7 days, the attack is classified as a misdemeanor and 
punished by a fine not exceeding approximately $100 (3,000 Czech 
crowns--approximately one-fourth of the average monthly wage). Repeated 
misdemeanor attacks do not impose stricter sanctions on the abuser. The 
police are training specialist personnel to deal with domestic 
violence; however, they do not yet engage in regular contact with 
welfare and medical services. However, in 1998 the Police Academy and 
secondary police schools introduced, into both the introductory and 
continuing education curriculums, instructional material to improve the 
identification and investigation of domestic violence and sexual abuse 
cases and to sensitize police to the treatment of victims.
    Forced prostitution (pimping) is illegal; prostitution is not, 
although local communities have the right to regulate it and enforce 
restrictions. The Interior Ministry estimates that up to 25,000 persons 
currently earn a living from the sex industry. Prostitution and erotic 
businesses are particularly prevalent in the border regions with 
Germany and Austria, where international vehicular traffic is heaviest. 
Trafficking in prostitutes is forbidden by law, and trafficking in 
women is a problem (see Section 6.f.).
    The media rarely mention the issue of sexual harassment. There are 
no legal definitions or laws prohibiting sexual harassment.
    The Czech language has no standard term to express ``sexual 
harassment.'' One NGO monitoring this problem reported that the lack of 
sensitivity on this issue does not mean that sexual harassment does not 
exist; rather, some inappropriate or offensive behaviors may be too 
common for comment. In a 1995 study by the Sociology Institute, 43 
percent of women reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment 
in the workplace during their career. A study by the Defense Ministry 
in 1996 found that nearly half of female soldiers experienced 
harassment on duty. The concerns of women's groups over workplace 
sexual harassment often are ignored or dismissed. However, during the 
year a university student became the first woman in the country to win 
a sexual harassment suit.
    Women are equal under the law and in principle receive the same pay 
for the same job. Women represent roughly half of the labor force, 
though they are employed disproportionately in professions where the 
median salary is relatively low. Women's median wages lag behind those 
of men by roughly 25 percent, although the gap is narrowing. Women 
enjoy equal property, inheritance, and other rights with men. The 
unemployment rate for women now exceeds that for men by more than one-
third, and a disproportionately small number of women hold senior 
positions. In April the Czech Helsinki Committee released a report 
documenting police discrimination against women during recruitment of 
officers.
    A 1991 employment law bans discrimination on the basis of sex; 
however, in practice employers remain free to consider sex, age, or 
even attractiveness when making hiring decisions, since this does not 
necessarily constitute ``discrimination'' under current legal 
interpretation. Employers often use openly such factors as age, sex, 
and lifestyle in their employment solicitations.
    Children.--The Government demonstrates its commitment to children's 
welfare through its programs for health care, compulsory education 
through age 15 (through age 14 in special schools), and basic 
nutrition. Girls and boys enjoy equal access to health care and 
education at all levels.
    Child abuse and trafficking in children (see Section 6.f.) 
continued to receive press attention during the year. In February a 
British former disc jockey and three other foreigners went on trial on 
charges of pedophilia. If convicted, they face up to 8 years in prison 
or up to 15 years if the court finds exacerbating circumstances. A 
March press report indicated that Central Europe is becoming more 
popular as a destination for pedophiles due to its convenient location 
and low risk of sexually transmitted disease. Some experts estimate 
that the number of visits to the country, primarily by West Europeans, 
for the purpose of abusing children has increased 20 percent since 
1997. Dissemination of child pornography, whether by print, video, CD-
rom, or the Internet is a criminal act. These laws are enforced; in 
January police in Decin brought charges against a man who placed an 
advertisement on the Internet offering child pornography on CD-rom. He 
was convicted and sentenced to 1 year in prison. Court convictions 
against persons guilty of child sex abuse are reported routinely in the 
media.
    Since 1990 the number of reported cases of child abuse roughly 
doubled; this increase appears to be the result of increased awareness 
of the problem and more effective police training and action. Laws 
criminalize family violence, physical restraint, sexual activity, and 
other abuse of a minor. A Children's Crisis Center was established in 
1995 and is 70 percent state supported. The Fund for Endangered 
Children estimates that the total number of children suffering from 
physical, psychological and sexual abuse is 20,000 to 40,000, but only 
about one-tenth of such cases are registered by the police. About 50 
children die each year as a result of abuse and violence within the 
family. According to NGO's, there are approximately 10,000 children 
living in institutional settings and 4,000 foster families supported by 
the Government and various NGO's.
    Romani children often are relegated to ``special schools'' for the 
mentally disabled and socially maladjusted. Both a government program 
and various private initiatives exist to prepare Romani children for 
mainstream schools. In June the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) 
filed a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court on behalf of 12 Romani 
families in Ostrava, alleging that the disproportionate number of 
Romani children in special schools constitutes de facto racial 
segregation throughout the educational system.
    People with Disabilities.--The disabled suffer disproportionately 
from unemployment, and the physically disabled experience difficulty in 
obtaining access to buildings and public transport. Access to education 
can be a problem, due to the lack of barrier-free access to public 
schools, although there is at least one barrier-free school in each 
district. Although access is improving, many buildings and public 
transportation remain inaccessible to those in wheelchairs. In Prague 
19 metro stations (nearly 50 percent of the total) and 2 bus lines are 
now accessible by the disabled. A 1994 Economic Ministry regulation 
requires architects to ensure adequate access for the disabled in all 
new building projects, as well as in older buildings undergoing 
restoration. This regulation is applied in practice. However, the 
Government has not mandated access for the disabled to other buildings. 
Businesses in which 60 percent or more of the employees are disabled 
qualify for special tax breaks. Numerous NGO's support social 
assistance programs to diminish the disadvantages faced by the 
disabled. For example, as of June Nadace Charty 77 had contributed more 
than $44,000 (1.5 million Czech crowns) to institutions and individuals 
to purchase rehabilitative aids and special fittings for wheelchairs 
not covered by insurance. These NGO's report that, although problems 
persist, the situation of the disabled is receiving more attention and 
is vastly improved from only a few years ago. The integration of the 
disabled into society has not been the subject of significant policy or 
public debate.
    Religious Minorities.--On June 23, a Prague court prohibited Tomas 
Kebza, deputy chairman of the rightwing Republican Youth Party and 
editor of the weekly Republika, from publishing for 10 years for two 
articles that contained anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi views and that were 
aimed at suppressing the rights of other citizens (see Section 2.a.).
    On November 1, Minister of Interior Vaclav Grulich reported that 
the Ministry sent letters to two extremist organizations warning them 
that they were violating human rights. The Patriotic Front and the 
National Alliance had 30 days to respond to the Ministry in writing. 
The two organizations held a demonstration in Prague on October 28, at 
which the National Alliance leader told those gathered that the 
Holocaust was `'an invention.''
    On December 20, in a display on the struggles of the extremist 
rightwing Republican Party that was hung in front of the local party 
headquarters in Decin, photographs of President Havel, Prime Minister 
Zeman, Civic Democratic Party leader Klaus, and Freedom Union chairman 
Jan Ruml were labeled ``Jewish Free Masons and Murderers of the Czech 
Nation.'' The exhibit also included a list of ``Jews and Jewish Half-
Breeds'' in politics that included the names of Havel, Zeman, and 
Klaus. The list was removed a few days later.
    In March one young man in Trutnov was sentenced to 18 months in 
prison for his role in the 1998 desecration of 41 tombstones in a 
Jewish cemetery. The courts sentenced three other youths arrested in 
connection with the same incident to suspended sentences of 18 months. 
In February police in Plzen arrested 12 leaders, producers, and 
distributors of racist, Fascist, and anti-Semitic materials. Police 
confirmed the existence of over 20 underground magazines with small 
circulations propagating fascism, racism, and anti-Semitism.
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities.--After ethnic Slovaks, the 
largest minority is the Romani population, officially estimated to 
number between 200,000 and 250,000. Roma live throughout the country 
but are concentrated in the industrial towns along the northern border, 
where many eastern Slovak Roma were encouraged to settle in the homes 
of Sudeten Germans transferred to the West more than 40 years ago.
    Roma suffer disproportionately from poverty, unemployment, 
interethnic violence, discrimination, illiteracy, and disease. They are 
subject to popular prejudice, as is affirmed repeatedly by public 
opinion polls. Nearly one-quarter of the respondents in a February 
opinion poll admitted to racial intolerance, while 16 percent said that 
they were intolerant of other nationalities. A court case charging 
editors of a Republican Party magazine (leaders of this extreme 
rightwing party espouse virulently anti-German and anti-Romani 
policies) with publishing offensive statements against Roma was filed 
with a Prague district court in January 1998 and was still before the 
court at year's end.
    The State funds television and radio programs for Roma on public 
stations and also supports Romani press publications. There is one 
full-time Romani anchorman on Czech Television. During the year, more 
and better information on Romani issues was becoming available in the 
mainstream press and other sources. To improve media reporting on 
Romani issues, a Romani journalism course was established in the 
College of Publicity, and the first graduates finished in February. 
There has been a Department of Romani Language Studies at Charles 
University in Prague since 1991, and additional university-level Romani 
language study programs exist in Usti nad Labem and Brno.
    However, efforts by NGO's and individuals in the health and 
education fields to improve living conditions for the Roma have had 
only minimal impact, sometimes due to the attitudes or intransigence of 
local authorities. Romani leaders themselves have had limited success 
in organizing their local communities, which often are disunited and 
where many are reluctant to foster contacts with the majority.
    Members of skinhead organizations and their sympathizers most often 
perpetrate interethnic violence. Roma are the most likely targets of 
such crimes, although other ``dark-skinned'' individuals come under the 
same attacks. During the first 6 months of the year, 238 persons were 
charged with ``racially motivated'' crimes. An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 
skinheads are active in the country. The Documentation Center for Human 
Rights recorded 1,500 racially-motivated attacks over the past 8 years, 
in which nearly 30 persons died. In 1998 police recorded a total of 138 
``racially motivated crimes,'' nearly half of which were committed by 
juveniles. However, police and courts sometimes are reluctant to 
classify crimes against Roma as racially motivated, and the actual 
figures likely are higher.
    In January six skinheads were charged with committing a racially 
motivated attack in 1998 on a 63-year-old disabled Romani man at the 
Havlickuv Brod railway station.
    On July 17, a group of skinheads attacked a 27-year-old Rom in a 
bar in Jesenik with pool cues, pool balls, and other objects, as they 
shouted racial epithets at him. Police charged six persons involved in 
the attack with defamation of race and disturbing the peace. According 
to a local Romani NGO, there were more than 10 racially motivated 
attacks in Jesenik during the year, but the police did not investigate 
most of them.
    On August 4, three skinheads attacked Jana Chalupova and Jakub 
Polak in a restaurant near the district court of Karvina, where Polak 
was representing the family of a Rom who was killed by skinheads in 
1998. Chalupova is the head of public relations for the President's 
administration.
    On August 27, some 30 skinheads attacked several Romani homes in a 
village near Jaromerice nad Rokytnou, which resulted in injuries to 2 
Roma and damage to several cars and houses. The raid lasted 
approximately 1 hour, and the skinheads threw bricks and stones at the 
Roma. The police launched an investigation into the attack and charged 
12 persons with rioting, property damage, and violence, although they 
were not charged with racially motivated crimes.
    On November 20, some 30 skinheads attacked between 60 and 70 Roma 
in a restaurant in Ceske Budejovice; 6 persons were injured. Police 
subsequently charged 23 skinheads with racially motivated violence; 
they now face sentences of up to 3 years in prison.
    On January 11, a court charged a 21-year-old student from Plzen 
with disseminating Fascist propaganda. The student had created an 
Internet web site with Fascist symbols and a photograph of a youth 
giving the Hitler salute. The student was convicted of promoting racial 
discord and unlawful limitation of the rights and freedoms of other 
citizens.
    On February 20, police in Holoubkov detained six members of 
Sturmpionier-Battalion 43, a new paramilitary group that vowed to honor 
the legacy of the Nazi Wehrmacht.
    Police continued to investigate a November 1998 incident that 
occurred in the city of Hodonin, during which a group of skinheads 
brutally attacked an elderly American citizen for apparently defending 
a young Rom whom the skinheads were harassing while dining in the same 
restaurant. After exchanging words with the man, the skinheads waited 
for him outside, and after a short chase, attacked him and left him 
seriously injured and unconscious on the ground. The incident was 
captured by the security cameras of a nearby gasoline station. Charges 
later were filed against the main attacker, and the local district 
court is scheduled to hear the matter in early 2000.
    In February the High Court in Prague confirmed the sentences of two 
men involved in the 1997 racially motivated murder of Romani mother 
Helena Bihariova; in 1998 one received 8\1/2\ years in prison for 
murder, and the second received 15 months for breach of the peace, 
after his sentence was reduced from 6\1/2\ years. Also in February, the 
Justice Minister filed a complaint against the High Court for annulling 
the convictions, on technical grounds, of three skinheads found guilty 
in a retrial in 1998 of murdering Tibor Danihel in 1995. Authorities 
detained 11 suspects for terrorizing Romani residents in Domazlice in 
1997. A court later acquitted 10 of the suspects, while the remaining 
suspect was convicted of disturbing the peace (he later was pardoned 
during a general presidential amnesty and is now free.)
    In January a district court in Prague acquitted Miroslav Sladek, 
the leader of the extreme rightwing Republican Party, of charges of 
inciting racial and ethnic hatred, on the grounds that his statements 
are protected by freedom of speech provisions in the law. His party 
espouses virulently anti-Roma and anti-foreigner policies.
    In February a court sentenced former mayor and current city council 
member of Obrnice Jan Hrabak to 6 weeks in jail or a fine of $850 
(30,000 Czech crowns) for using racial epithets against a Rom in 1998.
    There was no progress in the case of the 1998 death of Milan Lacko; 
the court's 1998 verdict was not appealed during the year, and the case 
appears to be closed. However, the skinheads convicted for attacking 
Lacko now are facing additional charges for appearing at the trial 
wearing swastikas and for making racial jokes and insults to the media 
and members of the victim's family in the courthouse. The case is 
scheduled to be decided in early 2000.
    Prime Minister Zeman consistently called for the cancellation of 
the official registration of groups sympathetic to the skinhead 
movement, but no action has been taken to date. A February police raid 
in Plzen led to the arrest of 12 skinhead leaders, distributors, and 
producers of Nazi materials. The raid also netted piles of Fascist and 
racist materials, including membership lists, indicating that the group 
was part of a large, well-organized movement with ties to the United 
Kingdom, Sweden, Hungary, and Slovenia. Those arrested were charged 
with dissemination of Fascist propaganda, an offense with a maximum 
penalty of 8 years in prison. The raid was executed prior to a planned 
skinhead rally in Line, near Plzen, and forced the cancellation of the 
event. The case did not go to trial by year's end. On May 1, hundreds 
of skinheads held a rally on a small island in Prague, and police 
arrested a few dozen of the skinheads. Government officials criticized 
city officials for permitting the rally. Also in May, police carried 
out a series of raids on racist and rightwing extremist groups. Police 
interrogated some 100 persons and arrested 1 person on charges that 
included promoting a group that seeks to suppress human rights and 
freedoms.
    There were also occasional Roma-instigated assaults on local law 
enforcement personnel during the year. In January two Romani men from 
Bilina were sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment with a 2-year 
probation, and 12 months' imprisonment with a 5-year probation for 
physical assault on police officers. Local Romani organizations 
generally criticized these attacks and offered their assistance in the 
investigations. In November three Roma who assaulted policemen in Usti 
nad Labem in 1998 were sentenced to 16 months in jail for a racially 
motivated crime.
    Racial and ethnic tensions and discrimination in society were the 
subject of increased media attention during the year. Even when federal 
authorities have spoken out on these issues, local attitudes often have 
proven impervious to change. In June the local city council in Usti nad 
Labem voted to proceed with its long-delayed decision to construct a 6-
foot high, 195-foot long wall between a primarily Romani apartment 
complex and its residents' neighbors across the street. Authorities 
modified the plan to include a children's playground and repave the 
street, but the Government again criticized the construction of the 
wall as a symbol of segregation and approved a plan to refer the matter 
to Parliament should the city council proceed with its plan. In August 
the city announced that it was proceeding immediately with 
construction, but the district government ordered the construction 
stopped, citing discrepancies in the building permit. In October the 
city ignored this and proceeded with construction. The wall was built 
overnight on October 13, with about 80 police officers present to 
prevent any violence. Mayor Ladislav Hruska described the wall as a 
``symbol of law and order.'' On October 18, the Government appointed 
Deputy Minister of Interior Pavel Zarecky as its special mediator to 
resolve the issue of the wall. In November the Government negotiated 
the removal of the wall after it agreed to give the city government 
$85,000 (3 million Czech crowns) to improve social conditions in the 
town. However, the city council announced that it would use a portion 
of the money to buy up the houses of Czech neighbors who refused to 
live next to the Roma. ``Now it will be a real ghetto,'' commented 
Timor Bada, a local Roma activist.
    The Government has been wrestling over plans to remove a pig farm 
in Lety from the site of a World War II Romani concentration camp and 
build a memorial in its place. A team headed by the Human Rights 
Commissioner officially recommended the farm's removal and a public 
collection to finance it, but the Government in April decided against 
taking action due to budgetary constraints. A January public opinion 
poll showed that 11 percent of respondents were willing to participate 
in financing the Lety project, and less than one-quarter of those 
polled were aware that Roma were persecuted under the Nazi regime. Some 
Romani organizations and the Czech Helsinki Committee protested the 
Government's decision and in May began an international boycott of 
Czech pork organized by the Romani National Congress. On May 18, the 
Government agreed to spend $28,600 (1 million Czech crowns) on 
improvements to the monument in Lety. During World War II, 327 Roma, 
including 241 children, died in the camp. The pig farm was built on the 
site in 1974.
    Roma wishing to integrate face practical difficulties in the areas 
of employment and education. A government-commissioned report estimated 
unemployment among Roma at 70 percent, with many unemployed Roma 
subsisting on government support or earnings from illegal activities. 
Some employers refuse to hire Roma and ask local labor offices not to 
send Romani applicants for advertised positions. Many Roma are 
qualified only for low-paying jobs as manual laborers, since very few 
complete secondary education. A higher than average share of the Romani 
population applies for partial or full disability pensions due to the 
occurrence of advanced-stage malignant diseases resulting from the 
neglect of preventive health practices or the lack of available medical 
care in areas with above-average Romani populations. In April the Human 
Rights Commissioner unveiled a 12-point proposal to combat 
discrimination and ``give advantage to Romani firms in placing public 
orders.'' The proposal was being considered by the Government at year's 
end.
    The integration of Romani children into mainstream schools 
frequently is impeded by language and cultural barriers. Official 
estimates indicate that less than 20 percent of the Romani population 
completed the ninth grade, and less than 5 percent completed high 
school. A significant number of Romani children are transferred at an 
early age to ``special schools'' for the mentally disabled and socially 
maladjusted. According to unofficial government estimates, Romani 
children make up 60 percent or more of pupils placed in these special 
schools, although Roma constitute less than 3 percent of the 
population. Some Romani parents do not send their children to school 
regularly due to a fear of violence, the expense of books and supplies, 
or the lack of a strong cultural emphasis on education among some Roma. 
In June 12 Romani families filed suit in the Constitutional Court to 
protest the ``de facto segregation'' of Romani children into special 
schools. The lawsuit requested the establishment of a compensatory 
educational fund, an end to racial segregation within 3 years, and the 
development of an educational reform plan. However, the Constitutional 
Court rejected the complaint in November and stated that it did not 
have the power to order the Ministry of Education to create programs to 
end racial discrimination. The Ministry of Education later took steps 
independently to implement some of the recommended changes. In December 
the Parliament approved legislation allowing qualified Romani students, 
previously relegated to the special schools, to return to attend 
mainstream secondary or upper-level public schools. The legislation was 
drafted by Parliament's sole Romani representative and constituted a 
significant step in opening access to higher education to the Romani 
minority.
    In 1993 the Government created the framework for a number of year-
long programs (so-called zero grades) to prepare disadvantaged youths 
for their first year in school. Many districts with high concentrations 
of Roma participate in the program, which is funded solely by local 
authorities. Nearly 90 zero grades were open during the year, and 
another educational initiative continued placing Romani ``assistant 
teachers'' into the primary and special school system. Their function 
is to help teachers communicate with Romani pupils and encourage 
cooperation between schools and Romani parents. There are now 62 Romani 
assistant teachers in the school system. Some districts tracking local 
Romani students report that up to 70 percent of the children who attend 
zero-grade training successfully enter and remain in mainstream 
schools. During the year, the Education Ministry began using joint 
Romani-Czech language textbooks in 60 elementary schools to help 
overcome the barrier in the early school years between Romani children 
and non-Romani speaking teachers. Local NGO's support additional 
studies and private initiatives to prepare Romani children for 
mainstream schools. Some Roma refuse to cooperate with compulsory 
vaccinations for children or are refused treatment by general 
practitioners who have full quotas of subsidized patients. In 1998 the 
Labor Ministry created and filled 58 district-level positions (out of 
81 districts nationwide) with ``Roma advisors'' or ``Roma assistants'' 
to advise local authorities on Romani issues. Eventually 20 Roma were 
placed in the 58 available positions, and many have made a significant 
contribution to their community. However, some Romani leaders, while 
conceding the difficulties in finding educationally qualified or 
trained Romani applicants to fill these positions, expressed regret 
that only a third eventually were filled by Roma.
    Roma also face discrimination in housing and other areas of 
everyday life. Despite constitutional prohibitions on discrimination, a 
civil law framework to implement these provisions has not been 
incorporated into specific offenses under the Criminal Code. Some 
restaurants, pubs, and other venues refuse service to Roma and post 
signs prohibiting their entry. In July 2 discos in Plzen denied entry 
to 5 Romani students, prompting a boycott of the clubs by over 600 
students at West Bohemia University. The club owners eventually 
apologized. In some cases, local authorities intervened to have such 
signs removed, although in a 1998 retrial a Rokycany pub owner was 
acquitted of refusing to serve Romani patrons in 1996. The state 
attorney appealed the verdict, and the case was heard during the year; 
a decision is expected in early 2000. In October the Hotel Imperial in 
Ostrava agreed to pay an out-of-court settlement of $715 (25,000 Czech 
crowns) to three Roma who it refused to serve in 1998. In October press 
reports revealed that certain unemployment offices regularly mark the 
records of persons who appear to be Roma with the letter ``R.'' The 
findings of a subsequent government inquiry into the matter suggested 
that the problem was not as widespread as originally reported; however, 
authorities still took steps to prevent this practice in the future, 
including updated instructions and clarification of existing policy 
from the Ministry of Work and Social Affairs regarding the 
administration of databases and personal records, and more frequent 
audits by Ministry officials at the regional employment offices. 
Moreover, press accounts during the year revealed that Czech Airlines 
marked the names of persons believed to be Roma with the letter, ``G,'' 
for ``gypsy,'' supposedly to alert authorities in the United Kingdom 
about potential asylum seekers. Officials in the United Kingdom denied 
ever requesting such information from the airline. The practice 
reportedly was discontinued at mid-year.
    In June approximately 100 residents of the town of Krnov signed a 
petition against Roma, complaining that they are noisy on the street, 
listen to loud music, make messes, and spoil the neighborhood. In 
August residents of the Horni Kosovo district in Jihlava also were 
collecting signatures for an anti-Roma petition, and there were reports 
of a similar petition drive in Znojmo in the spring.
    Beginning in 1997, when over 1,200 Roma submitted applications for 
refugee status in Canada and the United Kingdom, Romani families have 
continued to emigrate. At the end of 1998, 70 percent of the applicants 
(737) in Canada were granted asylum. An additional 171 asylum seekers 
applied in 1998. The numbers applying to the United Kingdom have 
increased substantially in spite of the fact that most of these 
requests are denied. By year's end, Romani applicants had filed over 
1,790 requests for asylum, a record. Because this number represents 
only those requests filed by the ``head of the household'' (one 
application per family), the actual number of Romani asylum seekers for 
the year is estimated to be between 6,000 and 7,000. Roma from the 
Czech Republic also filed record numbers of asylum applications in 
Finland and Belgium. Human Rights Commissioner Uhl noted that an 
estimated 10,000 Czech Roma have emigrated in the last 3 years. In July 
a four-person Romani family reportedly was granted asylum in France.
    The Government and some local municipalities began implementing 
programs designed to deal with drug addiction and crime prevention in 
the Romani community during the year. Since these programs still are at 
different stages of implementation, their initial effectiveness is 
uncertain.
    The Interministerial Commission for Romani Community Affairs was 
created in 1997 to analyze government measures proposed by individual 
ministries, to collect information and to inform the Romani community 
about government activities, to allocate grants to supplementary 
programs for the Romani community, and to deal with issues covering 
housing, education, and discrimination. In December 1998, the 
Commission was expanded to include 12 government representatives and 12 
Romani representatives, as well as the Commissioner for Human Rights 
and his deputy. The revamped Commission has taken an increasingly 
active role in resolving disputes between Romani communities and their 
non-Romani neighbors in towns such as Usti nad Labem and Rokycany, as 
well as promoting positive initiatives. Other government initiatives 
have included the organization of a team of specialized ``Romani-
inspectors,'' who are authorized to penalize shop and restaurant owners 
who refuse service to Roma, and increased training and seminar activity 
to promote understanding and tolerance. There also was an active effort 
underway during the year to identify, train, and recruit qualified Roma 
to serve in law enforcement. The national police academy introduced a 
course in Romani language and culture, which was designed to facilitate 
police officers' improved communication and response to the Romani 
communities in their precincts.
    In February the Cabinet submitted to Parliament a draft law to 
allow former Czechoslovak citizens who have lived in the country since 
1993 to claim citizenship by simple declaration. This bill was created 
to remedy the de facto stateless situation of some Czech Roma, who were 
estimated to number between 10,000 and 20,000 persons. The bill passed 
both houses of Parliament and was signed into law on September 23. The 
law also regularizes the status of children in foster care who lacked 
citizenship or permanent residency status. However, the law only 
provides for citizenship for those who have resided primarily in the 
country since 1993. Certain persons who went abroad for extended 
periods, including some asylum seekers and those expelled from the 
country by authorities, may face added difficulty in filing for 
citizenship under the new law. Nor does the law provide benefits to 
those who were denied citizenship and benefits between 1993 and 1999.
Section 6. Worker Rights
    a. The Right of Association.--The law provides workers with the 
right to form and join unions of their own choice without prior 
authorization, and the Government respects this right in practice. 
Union membership continued to decline during the year.
    Most workers are members of unions affiliated with the Czech-
Moravian Chamber of Trade Unions (CMKOS). The CMKOS is a democratically 
oriented, republic-wide umbrella organization for branch unions. It is 
not affiliated with any political party and carefully maintains its 
independence.
    Workers have the right to strike, except for those whose role in 
public order or public safety is deemed crucial. The law requires that 
labor disputes be subject first to mediation and that strikes take 
place only after mediation efforts fail.
    During the year, there were strikes in the transportation and 
equipment manufacturing sectors, as well as a significant coal miners' 
strike in which a large group of workers refused to leave the mines 
until their demands for new wage and job security negotiations were 
met. The miners stayed underground in protest for 2 days before the 
issue was resolved. There were also several demonstrations in front of 
Parliament and government headquarters protesting the growing problem 
of nonpayment of wages by some large manufacturing firms.
    Unions are free to form or join federations and confederations and 
affiliate with and participate in international bodies. This freedom 
was exercised fully.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--The law 
provides for collective bargaining, which generally is carried out by 
unions and employers on a company basis. The scope for collective 
bargaining is more limited in the government sector, where wages are 
regulated by law.
    There are 11 free trade zones. Their workers have and practice the 
same right to organize and bargain collectively as other workers in the 
country.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--The law prohibits 
forced or compulsory labor, including that performed by children, and 
it generally is not used; however, trafficking in women and children 
for the purpose of forced prostitution is a problem (see Section 6.f.).
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--The Labor Code stipulates a minimum working age of 15 
years, although children who completed courses at special schools 
(schools for the mentally disabled and socially maladjusted) may work 
at the age of 14. These prohibitions are enforced in practice. The law 
prohibits forced or bonded labor by children, and the Government 
effectively enforces this prohibition (see Section 6.c.).
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--The Government sets minimum wage 
standards. In July the Government increased the minimum wage from 
approximately $108 (3,250 Czech crowns) per month to $115 (3,600 Czech 
crowns), the second raise in 6 months. The monthly average is 
approximately $375 (11,600 Czech crowns) per month. Average net wages 
are 2.1 times as high as official sustenance costs. The minimum wage 
provides a sparse standard of living for a worker and family, although 
allowances are available to families with children. Retraining efforts, 
carried out by district labor offices, seek to provide labor mobility 
for those at the lower end of the wage scale. The enforcement of 
minimum wage standards was not an issue during the year.
    The law mandates a standard workweek of 42\1/2\hours. It also 
requires paid rest of at least 30 minutes during the standard 8- to 
8\1/2\hour workday, as well as annual leave of 3 to 4 weeks. Overtime 
ordered by the employer may not exceed 150 hours per year or 8 hours 
per week as a standard practice, although the local employment office 
may permit overtime above this limit. The Labor Ministry enforces 
standards for working hours, rest periods, and annual leave.
    Government, unions, and employers promote worker safety and health, 
but conditions in some sectors of heavy industry are problematic, 
especially those awaiting privatization. Industrial accident rates are 
not unusually high. The Office of Labor Safety is responsible for 
enforcement of health and safety standards. Workers have the right to 
refuse work endangering their life or health without risk of loss of 
employment.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--Specific laws prohibit trafficking in 
women and children, and trafficking in women and girls for the purpose 
of forced prostitution is a problem. Law enforcement officials report 
that the Czech Republic is both a transit and destination country for 
traffickers in women from farther east. Organizing prostitution or 
pandering also is illegal and punishable by a prison term of up to 8 
years, with a term of up to 12 years if the victim is under the age of 
15. (Adults can be prosecuted for engaging in sexual activity with a 
minor under the age of 15.) There have been numerous convictions of 
traffickers as a result of proactive investigative efforts on the part 
of law enforcement officers. The Czech Police Organized Crime Division 
includes a Unit on Trafficking in Persons, established in 1995, which 
cooperates with other nations to enforce these laws.
    A May raid in Chomutov led to the arrest of 4 gang members and the 
release of 27 Ukrainian women who had been forced into prostitution by 
the gang. A March raid in Spain broke up an international ring that 
trafficked Czech and Slovak women into prostitution.
    The full extent of trafficking in children is unknown; however, 
convictions of child sex offenders are reported routinely in the media. 
For example, the conviction of a British national for pedophilia was 
covered widely during the year, as were the cases of several German 
citizens who were detained in cities near the Czech-German border and 
who reportedly had traveled regularly to the country for the purpose of 
soliciting sexual activity from adolescents (particularly young Roma). 
Following these incidents, police personnel took measures to prevent 
this type of ``sexual tourism'' more effectively. Police enhanced 
patrols in high-risk areas, enforced curfew-type policies more 
actively, and raised public awareness of the issue through the media.
                                 ______
                                 

                                DENMARK

    Denmark is a constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democratic 
rule. Queen Margrethe II is Head of State. The Cabinet, accountable to 
the unicameral Parliament (Folketing), leads the Government. A Social 
Democrat-led minority coalition remains in power following a narrow 
election victory in 1998. The judiciary is independent.
    The national police have sole responsibility for internal security. 
The civilian authorities maintain effective control of the security 
forces.
    Denmark has an advanced, market-based industrial economy. One-half 
of the work force is employed in the public sector. The key industries 
are food processing and metalworking. A broad range of industrial goods 
is exported. The economy provides residents with a high standard of 
living.
    The Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens, 
and the law and judiciary provide effective means of dealing with 
instances of individual abuse. Trafficking in women is a problem.
                        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.--The law prohibits such practices, and there were no 
reports that officials employed them.
    Prison conditions meet minimum international standards, and the 
Government permits visits by human rights monitors.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--The law prohibits 
arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the Government observes this 
prohibition.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--The law provides for an 
independent judiciary, and the Government respects this provision in 
practice. The judiciary provides citizens with a fair and efficient 
judicial process.
    The judicial system consists of a series of local and regional 
courts, with the Supreme Court at the apex.
    The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent 
judiciary vigorously enforces this right.
    There were no reports of political prisoners.
    f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--The law prohibits such practices, government 
authorities generally respect these prohibitions, and violations are 
subject to effective legal sanction.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
    a. Freedom of Speech and Press.--The law provides for freedom of 
the press, and the Government respects this right in practice. An 
independent press, an effective judiciary, and a democratic political 
system combine to ensure freedom of speech and of the press, including 
academic freedom.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The law provides 
for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice.
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution provides for religious 
freedom, and the Government respects this right in practice. It also 
provides for an official state religion, the Evangelical Lutheran 
Church, which is subsidized by the Government. The Evangelical Lutheran 
faith is taught in public schools, but students may withdraw from 
religious classes with parental consent. The government does not 
require that religious groups be licensed, but the state's permission 
is required for religious ceremonies, for example, weddings, that have 
civil validity.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--The law provides for these rights, and 
the Government respects them in practice.
    The law provides for the granting of refugee or asylum status in 
accordance with the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of 
Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government cooperates with the U.N. 
High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in 
assisting refugees. The Government provides first asylum and provided 
it to approximately 2,300 persons in the first 6 months of 1999, and to 
approximately 5,700 persons in 1998. There were no reports of the 
forced expulsion of refugees to a country where they feared persecution 
or of those having a valid claim to refugee status.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to 
        Change Their Government
    The law 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 territories of Greenland (whose population is primarily Inuit) 
and the Faroe Islands (whose inhabitants have their own Norse language) 
have elected democratically home rule governments with powers 
encompassing all matters except foreign affairs, monetary affairs, and 
national security. Greenlanders and Faroese are Danish citizens with 
the same rights as those in the rest of the Kingdom. Each territory 
elects two representatives to the Folketing.
    Women are active in government and politics at both the local and 
national levels. In the current Government, 7 of 20 Government 
ministers are women, as are 67 of the Parliament's 179 members. Aside 
from two parliamentarians of mixed ancestry (both from Greenland), 
ethnic minorities are not represented in the Government, although they 
are represented in local politics.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    A number of human rights groups operate without government 
restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human 
rights cases. Government officials are cooperative and responsive to 
their views.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language, or Social Status
    The Government's operations and extensive public services do not 
discriminate on the basis of any of these factors. The law prohibits 
discrimination on the basis of sex, and the Government enforces it 
effectively. Discrimination on the basis of race is covered by two 
laws, which prohibit racial slander and denial of access to public 
places on the basis of race. The rights of indigenous people are 
protected carefully.
    Women.--An umbrella nongovernmental organization reports that in 
1998, women's crisis shelters were contacted approximately 9,000 times, 
compared with 9,961 times in 1997. A total of 1,934 women stayed at 
shelters during 1998, compared with 1,623 women in 1997. There were 150 
reported rapes in the first 6 months of 1999, compared with 418 in 
1998.
    The law requires equal pay for equal work, but some wage inequality 
still exists. The law prohibits job discrimination on the basis of sex 
and provides recourse, such as access to the Equal Status Council, for 
those so affected. Women hold positions of authority throughout 
society, although they are underrepresented at the top of the business 
world. Women's rights groups effectively lobby the Government in their 
areas of concern, such as wage disparities and parental leave.
    The problem of trafficking in women for the purpose of 
prostitution, particularly from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, 
remained a focus of government concern during the year (see Section 
6.f.).
    Children.--The Government demonstrates a strong commitment to 
children's rights and welfare through well-funded systems of public 
education and medical care. The Ministries of Social Affairs, Justice, 
and Education oversee implementation of programs for children.
    There is no societal pattern of abuse against children. In 1997 the 
Folketing passed legislation that banned the physical punishment of 
children by adults, including their parents.
    People with Disabilities.--There is no discrimination against 
disabled persons in employment, education, or in the provision of other 
state services. Building regulations require special facilities for the 
disabled in public buildings built or renovated after 1977 and in older 
buildings that come into public use. The Government enforces these 
provisions in practice.
    Indigenous People.--The law protects the rights of the inhabitants 
of Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Greenland's legal system seeks to 
accommodate Inuit customs. Accordingly, it provides for the use of lay 
persons as judges and sentences most prisoners to holding centers 
(rather than to prisons) where they are encouraged to work, hunt, or 
fish during the day. Education in Greenland is provided to the native 
population in both the Inuit and Danish languages.
    In August the High Court ruled that the government unjustly 
resettled Greenland Inuits in 1953 in order to accommodate the 
expansion of a U.S. Air Force base in northwest Greenland. The Court 
ordered the Government to pay compensation to the displaced 
Greenlanders and their descendants. The compensation is substantially 
less than the defendants sued for, and the case was under appeal to the 
Supreme Court at year's end. In September the office of Prime Minister 
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen issued a joint declaration with the home rule 
chairman of Greenland apologizing for the way the decision on the 
resettlement was reached and the manner in which it was carried out.
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities.--The inflow of ethnically and 
racially diverse refugees and immigrants provoked a degree of tension 
between Danes and immigrants (mostly Iranians, Palestinians, 
Pakistanis, and Sri Lankans until late 1992; refugees are now 
overwhelmingly from Somalia or the former Yugoslavia). In response to 
publicity concerning the involvement of foreigners in street crime and 
allegations of social welfare fraud committed by refugees, Parliament 
passed tighter immigration laws in June 1998, which took effect on 
January 1. Family reunification is now more difficult, and immigrants 
and refugees can no longer acquire permanent residence by living in the 
country for 18 months; rather they must now reside for 3 years and 
demonstrate that they have integrated into society. Additionally, they 
receive a special integration allowance that is 20 percent lower than 
the social benefits that a citizen receives. Critics claim that this 
provision violates the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of 
Refugees.
    Incidents of racial discrimination and racially motivated violence 
occur but are rare. The Government effectively investigates and deals 
with cases of racially motivated violence.
    In November Copenhagen experienced some of its worst rioting in 
years. The rioters were protesting a High Court decision to expel a 23-
year-old Turkish citizen. Although not a Danish citizen, the individual 
grew up and has close family in Denmark, including a wife and child. 
The Court ordered the expulsion for life to take effect immediately 
after a 3-year jail term for armed robbery.
Section 6. Worker Rights
    a. The Right of Association.--The law states that all workers, 
including military personnel and the police, may form or join unions of 
their choosing. Approximately 80 percent of wage earners belong to 
unions that are independent of the Government and political parties. 
All unions except those representing civil servants or the military 
have the right to strike.
    Unions may affiliate freely with international organizations, and 
they do so actively.
    b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively.--Workers and 
employers acknowledge each other's right to organize. Collective 
bargaining is protected by law and is widespread in practice. The law 
prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers against union members 
and organizers, and there are mechanisms to resolve disputes. Employers 
found guilty of antiunion discrimination are required to reinstate 
workers fired for union activities. In the private sector, salaries, 
benefits, and working conditions are agreed upon in biennial or 
triennial negotiations between the various employers' associations and 
their union counterparts. If the negotiations fail, a national 
conciliation board mediates, and its proposal is voted on by management 
and labor. If the proposal is rejected, the Government may force a 
legislated solution on the parties (usually based upon the mediators' 
proposal). The agreements, in turn, are used as guidelines throughout 
the public as well as the private sector. In the public sector, 
collective bargaining is conducted between the employees' unions and a 
government group, led by the Finance Ministry.
    Labor relations in Greenland are conducted in the same manner as in 
Denmark. Greenland's courts are the first recourse in disputes, but 
Danish mediation services or the Danish Labor Court also may be used.
    There is no umbrella labor organization in the Faroes, but 
individual unions engage in periodic collective bargaining with 
employers. Disputes are settled by mediation.
    There are no export processing zones.
    c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor.--Forced or bonded 
labor, by adults or children is prohibited by law, and this prohibition 
is enforced effectively by the Government.
    d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for 
Employment.--The minimum age for full-time employment is 15 years. A 
1996 change in the work environment law tightened employment rules for 
those under 18 years of age and set a minimum of 13 years of age for 
any type of work. The law is enforced by the Danish Working Environment 
Service (DWES), an autonomous arm of the Ministry of Labor. Export 
industries do not use child labor. Forced and bonded child labor is 
prohibited and does not occur (see Section 6.c.).
    e. Acceptable Conditions of Work.--No national minimum wage is 
mandated legally, but national labor agreements effectively set a wage 
floor. The lowest wage paid is currently about $12 (80 kroner) per 
hour, which is sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a 
worker and family. The law provides for 5 weeks of paid vacation per 
year. A 37-hour workweek is the norm, established by contract, not by 
law. However, the law requires at least 11 hours between the end of one 
work period and the start of the next.
    The law also prescribes conditions of work, including safety and 
health; the duties of employers, supervisors, and employees; work 
performance; rest periods and days off; and medical examinations. The 
DWES ensures compliance with labor legislation. Workers may remove 
themselves from hazardous situations or weapons production without 
jeopardizing their employment rights, and legal protections cover 
workers who file complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
    Similar conditions of work are found in Greenland and the Faroes, 
except that the workweek is 40 hours. As in Denmark, the workweek is 
established by contract, not by law.
    f. Trafficking in Persons.--In January the Ministry of Justice 
asked the State Attorney to evaluate the need for new laws against the 
import and exploitation of women.
    The problem of trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution 
remained a focus of government concern during the year. Of particular 
concern is the importation of women from Eastern Europe and Southeast 
Asia who, lured by the prospect of higher wages and a better life, find 
themselves forced into a life of prostitution by individuals, suspected 
of being part of organized crime, who brought them into the country. No 
concrete statistics are available as to how many women are involved in 
prostitution. The Minister of Justice's plans, announced in 1998, to 
convene a commission in March 1999 to look into the problem were 
dropped without explanation.
                                 ______
                                 

                                ESTONIA

    Estonia is a parliamentary democracy. With its statehood widely 
recognized as continuous for more than 70 years, Estonia regained its 
independence in 1991 after 50 years of Soviet occupation. The 
Constitution, adopted by referendum in 1992, established a 101-member 
unicameral legislature (State Assembly), a prime minister as Head of 
Government, and a president as Head of State. The judiciary is 
independent.
    Efforts to develop and strengthen a Western-type police force 
committed to procedures and safeguards appropriate to a democratic 
society are proceeding, with police leadership actively working to 
professionalize the force. The police, who are ethnically mixed, are 
subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Corrections personnel 
are subordinate to the Ministry of Justice. The security service, 
called Security Police, is subordinate to the Interior Ministry but 
also reports to the Prime Minister. Police and corrections personnel 
continued to commit human rights abuses.
    Estonia has a market economy. Reflecting the extent of post-1992 
reforms, the Government started accession negotiations with the 
European Union. Services, especially financial and tourism, are growing 
in importance compared to historically more prominent light industry 
and food production. The privatization of firms, including small, 
medium, and large-scale enterprises, is virtually complete. The 
Government is working on privatizing the remaining state-owned 
infrastructure enterprises. The growth of the economy has slowed, with 
an estimated increase of gross domestic product (GDP) of about 0.4 
percent in 1999. Although prices continue to rise, incomes are rising 
faster than inflation. Per capita GDP is about $3,677 per year. Two-
thirds of exports (textiles, food products, wood, and timber products) 
now are directed to Western markets. Unemployment remained fairly low 
overall (unofficially about 8 percent), but it was significantly higher 
in rural areas.
    The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens 
and the large noncitizen community; however, problems remained in some 
areas. The major human rights abuses continued to be mistreatment of 
prisoners and detainees and the use of excessive force by the police. 
Prison conditions are poor. The deadline for noncitizens to file for 
permanent residency expired in 1996, after being extended twice. An 
undetermined number of noncitizens still have not filed for residency. 
By mid-year 18,000 of 19,000 noncitizen former Soviet military 
personnel had received temporary residence permits. Processing of 
applications for alien passports continued. By year's end, most 
applicants for alien passports had received them. The Government 
continued to issue temporary travel documents and to accept officially 
invalid former Soviet internal passports for identification in 
emergency situations, such as registering births and deaths.
                        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.
    In 1998, President Lennart Meri created an international commission 
for research into crimes against humanity perpetrated in the country 
from 1940-91. The commission began work in January and held three 
formal meetings during the year. In November the Commission authorized 
sending an investigator to study materials in the Russian and German 
archives addressing this era.
    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; however, there continued 
to be credible reports that police used excessive force and verbal 
abuse during the arrest and questioning of suspects. Punishment cells 
(``kartsers'') continued to be used, in contravention of international 
standards.
    Prison conditions remained poor, although there were some 
improvements. A lack of funds and trained staff continued to be a 
serious problem. Overcrowding in the antiquated Tallinn Central Prison 
persisted. The percentage of prisoners suffering from tuberculosis was 
much higher than in the general population. The Government has 
refurbished some prison buildings. Modest gains were made in hiring new 
prison staff and retaining existing personnel. Work and study 
opportunities for prisoners increased slightly as the Government 
implemented new programs. The Government is considering new regulations 
that would reduce significantly the number of persons incarcerated and 
thereby alleviate overcrowding. During the year, 341 prisoners had been 
released in the calendar year under the Government's early release 
program for prisoners. Unlike previous years, there were no reports of 
prisoners killed by other prisoners.
    The Government has drafted but not yet implemented a multiyear plan 
to refurbish and restructure all the country's prisons and to close the 
Tallinn Central Prison.
    The Government permits human rights monitors to visit prisons.
    d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.--The Constitution and 
laws forbid arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government 
generally observes these prohibitions. Under the Constitution, warrants 
issued by a court are required to make arrests. Detainees must be 
informed promptly of the grounds for the arrest and given immediate 
access to legal counsel. If a person cannot afford counsel, the State 
will provide one. A person may be held for 48 hours without formally 
being charged; further detention requires a court order. A person may 
be held in pretrial detention for 2 months; this term may be extended 
to a total of 12 months by court order. Police rarely violate these 
limits. As of year's end, 1,392 of the 4,528 persons held in prisons 
were awaiting trial.
    The Government does not use forced exile.
    e. Denial of Fair Public Trial.--The Constitution establishes an 
independent judicial branch, and the judiciary is independent in 
practice. The judiciary operates through a three-tier court system: 
rural and city courts; district courts; and the State Court (which 
functions as a supreme court). The district and state courts are also 
courts for ``constitutional supervision.'' At the rural and city 
levels, court decisions are made by a majority vote with a judge and 
two lay members sitting in judgment. All judges and lay judges must be 
citizens. The President nominates and the State Assembly confirms the 
Chief Justice of the State Court. The Chief Justice nominates State 
Court judges who are subject to confirmation by the State Assembly. He 
also nominates the district, city, and rural court judges who are then 
appointed by the President. Judges are appointed for life.
    The role of the Chancellor of Justice and the ombudsman have been 
combined under legislation passed by Parliament in February. Parliament 
rejected a proposal for an independent ombudsman. The ombudsman is to 
handle complaints by private citizens against state institutions; the 
Chancellor has started such work.
    The Constitution provides that court proceedings shall be public. 
Closed sessions may be held only for specific reasons, such as the 
protection of state or business secrets, and in cases concerning 
minors. The Constitution further provides that defendants may present 
witnesses and evidence as well as confront and cross-examine 
prosecution witnesses. Defendants have access to prosecution evidence 
and enjoy a presumption of innocence.
    The Government continued to overhaul the country's criminal and 
civil procedural codes. An interim Criminal Code that went into effect 
in 1992 basically revised the Soviet Criminal Code by eliminating, for 
example, political and economic crimes. The Code of Criminal Procedure 
was adopted in 1994.
    There were no reports of political prisoners.
    f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence.--The law requires a search warrant for the search and 
seizure of property. During the investigative stage, warrants are 
issued by the prosecutor upon a showing of probable cause. Once a case 
has gone to court, warrants are issued by the court. The Constitution 
provides for secrecy of the mail, telegrams, telephones, and other 
means of communication. Police must obtain a court order to intercept a 
person's communications. Illegally obtained evidence is not admissible 
in court.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
    a. Freedom of Speech and Press.--The Government respects 
constitutional provisions providing for freedom of speech and of the 
press. The media routinely carry out probing and thorough investigative 
reporting. Foreign newspapers and magazines are widely available. All 
newsprint, printing, and distribution facilities are private companies. 
There are four major national Estonian language and two Russian 
language dailies, in addition to important weeklies. In a widely 
reported 1997 case, a well-known journalist was tried and convicted for 
insulting the spouse of a prominent politician in a newspaper interview 
and received a fine. All levels of the judiciary upheld the sentence. 
The European Court of Human Rights agreed in 1998 to hear the case, and 
it was still pending at year's end.
    The Law on Language prohibits the use of any foreign language on 
all public signs, advertisements, and notices, including election 
posters. The prohibition on campaign posters written in other than 
Estonian resulted in protests by one political party.
    State and public broadcast media, including one nationwide 
television channel (Estonian Television/ETV), continued to receive 
large government subsidies. Although the State once assured that these 
subsidies would continue, some officials called during the year for the 
combination of ETV and Estonian radio, along with a simultaneous 
reduction in their budgets by 50 percent. In 1998 Estonian Television 
(ETV) agreed not to broadcast commercials in return for annual 
subsidies from the commercial television stations; however, early in 
the year the agreement collapsed and state television again began to 
carry commercials, placing it in competition with commercial channels 
for advertising revenue.
    The Estonian Broadcasting Council fired the general director of 
ETV, Toomas Lepp, on December 13 stating that Lepp was discharged 
because of management failures, financial difficulties at ETV, and 
Lepp's ``undisciplined'' behavior. Lepp said that his discharge had 
political motivation and was illegal, and he said that he would protest 
to the Arbitration Board. At year's end, the issue was unresolved.
    There are several major independent television and radio stations. 
Several Russian-language programs, mostly produced in Estonia, are 
broadcast over state and private television channels. The Government 
played a key role in encouraging Russian language programs on state 
television. These Russian programs include highly professional talk 
shows and comprehensive news broadcasts. However, government budget 
cuts initiated during the year reduced the budget of ETV's Russian-
language department by 30 to 40 percent, reducing the department's 
ability to create self-produced programs. Russian state television and 
Ostankino programs are widely available via cable.
    The country still lacks a law on freedom of information. The 
governmental expert committee has worked out a draft law, but it has 
become an object of criticism. Neither journalists nor parliamentarians 
agree with the draft law. At year's end, Parliament had not passed the 
freedom of information bill.
    Academic freedom is respected.
    b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association.--The Constitution 
provides for the right to assemble freely, but noncitizens are 
prohibited from joining political parties, although they may form 
social groups. Permits for all public gatherings must be obtained 3 
weeks prior to the date of the gathering. The authorities have wide 
discretion to prohibit such gatherings on public safety grounds but 
seldom do so. There were no reports of government interference in mass 
gatherings or political rallies.
    The Constitution provides for the right of free association, and 
the Government respects this right in practice.
    c. Freedom of Religion.--The Constitution provides for freedom of 
religion, and the Government respects this right in practice.
    The 1993 Law on Churches and Religious Organizations requires all 
religious organizations to have at least 12 members and to be 
registered with the Interior Ministry and the Board of Religion. 
Leaders of religious organizations must be citizens with at least 5 
years' residence in the country.
    The majority of citizens are nominally Lutheran, but following 
deep-seated tradition there is wide tolerance of other denominations 
and religions. Persons of varying ethnic backgrounds profess Orthodoxy, 
including communities of the descendants of Russian Old Believers who 
found refuge in Estonia in the 17th century. The Estonian Apostolic 
Orthodox Church (EAOC), independent since 1919, subordinate to 
Constantinople since 1923, and exiled under the Soviet occupation, 
reregistered under its 1935 statute in August 1993. Since then, a group 
of ethnic Estonian and Russian parishes preferring to remain under the 
authority of the Russian Orthodox Church structure imposed during the 
Soviet occupation has insisted that it should have claim to the EAOC 
name. Representatives of the Moscow and Constantinople Patriarchates 
agreed in May that the Moscow Patriarchate would register under a new 
name. In June the State and the Moscow Patriarchate reached a tentative 
agreement over the use of Nevski Cathedral and Kuremae Monastery. The 
Moscow Patriarchate agreed to allow the monastery to be registered as 
state property, after which the State would either donate or rent the 
property back to the Moscow Patriarchate. Throughout the dispute, free 
worship has occurred in practice.
    d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation.--The law permits free movement within the 
country, and it is honored in practice. The law also provides for the 
right of foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation for citizens. 
Passports serve as identification but do not have to be carried at all 
times. There are no exit visas.
    In 1993 Parliament enacted a Law on Aliens that defines an alien as 
a person who is not a citizen of Estonia, that is, a citizen of another 
country or a stateless person. The majority of noncitizens are ethnic 
Russians. The law provided a 1-year period during which noncitizens who 
came to Estonia prior to July 1, 1990, and were permanent residents of 
the former Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, could apply for 
temporary residence permits. They also could apply for permanent 
residence at the same time. Following delays and confusion in 
implementation as well as criticism by international human rights 
observers, the application deadline was extended by a year, until July 
12, 1995. By that date the vast majority of aliens--327,737 of the 
estimated 370,000--had filed applications. The Government extended the 
registration period until April 30, 1996. An indeterminate number of 
noncitizens--estimates ranged from 20,000 to 50,000--still had not 
registered. In 1997 the Government began a campaign to register this 
group of aliens, pledging not to take any measures against them. By 
September 1998, some 2,000 had come forward. In 1997 the Government 
proposed and Parliament approved an amendment to the aliens law that 
allowed those who had applied for residence by July 12, 1995, to change 
temporary residence permits to permanent ones. This law was implemented 
in September 1998, 2 years earlier than the original act envisioned.
    There were complaints about the slow pace with which the Government 
was processing residence applications for some 19,000 Russian military 
pensioners. The process was complicated by the lack of Russian-provided 
passports in which to affix the permits. An estimated 35 percent of the 
first group of military pensioners missed the deadline to present their 
passports for residence permits. Technically, the Citizenship and 
Migration Board could move to have them deported. However, by mid-year 
no recommendations to deport any persons had been made. The Government 
is moving on a case-by-case basis to solve the outstanding issues. By 
September, out of some 19,000 persons who applied, the Government 
issued 17,000 temporary residence permits to retired Russian 
servicemen. Approximately 2,200 retired Russian servicemen have 
submitted applications to extend their residency. The Government 
refused residence to 22 former members of the Soviet military forces.
    No restrictions are placed on the right of noncitizens to foreign 
travel, emigration, or repatriation, although some noncitizens complain 
of delays in obtaining travel documents. The Government began issuing 
temporary travel documents valid for a single departure and reentry 
into the country to resident aliens in 1994. To accommodate the entry 
visa requirements of other countries, the validity period of the 
document was extended in 1994 from 6 months to 2 years. In late 1994, 
the Government began issuing alien passports, which are issued to 
resident aliens not in possession of any other valid travel document. 
Such aliens included: (1) persons who are designated as stateless; (2) 
foreign citizens who lack the opportunity to obtain travel documents 
from their country of origin or from another state; (3) persons who 
file for Estonian citizenship and pass the language examination if 
required; and (4) aliens who are permanently departing Estonia. The 
Government plans to expand the classes of noncitizens eligible for 
alien passports. It already has approved their issuance to noncitizens 
intending to study abroad and has agreed to issue them to former 
military personnel who cannot or do not want to take out Russian 
citizenship. By year's end, approximately 216,000 persons had applied 
for alien passports and 190,190 passports had been issued.
    The Government deported a relatively small number of illegal 
aliens, usually those caught in criminal acts. By September 18 illegal 
aliens were held as internees, pending deportation or a court order 
granting them residence. Internees are held in a wing of a regular 
prison. In July Finland and Estonia entered into a cooperation 
agreement to construct a new facility for illegal aliens and asylum 
seekers in East Viru county.
    In 1997 Parliament passed a refugee law that brought domestic 
legislation into conformity with the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to 
the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and also in 1997 amended 
several social security acts to provide refugees with social benefits 
identical to those of citizens. In February Parliament passed 
amendments to the refugee law that delegated authority from the 
Government to the Citizenship and Migration Board, clarified the 
refusal of refugee status, and established a state registry for asylum. 
In accordance with one of the articles contained in these amendments, 
starting on October 1 temporary residence permits could be granted to 
persons whose applications for a residence permit are based on an 
international agreement. The program began as scheduled, and as of 
October 13, 43 persons had applied for asylum of whom 33 still were 
waiting for a reply. All 10 of the applications that had been processed 
were turned down by the Citizenship and Migration Board on the grounds 
that the applicants did not fulfill the criteria for refugee status as 
defined in the 1951 U.N. Convention.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to 
        Change Their Government
    Citizens have the right to change their government. In March free 
and fair elections to the Parliament were held. The new Government is a 
coalition of the Pro Patria, Moderate, and Reform Parties. Among the 
deputies are four ethnic Russians. Indirect presidential elections were 
held in 1996. When the Parliament failed to muster the required two-
thirds majority to elect the President, an Electoral Assembly 
consisting of Members of Parliament and representatives of local 
governments convened and reelected the incumbent, Lennart Meri.
    Local elections were held in October. According to legislation, 
resident noncitizens and those who have lived permanently in the area 
for at least 5 years preceding the election can vote but cannot run for 
office. The local elections were free and fair. All candidates had 
certified that they knew Estonian sufficiently to be able to function 
in local government.
    The 1992 Citizenship Law readopted the 1938 Citizenship Law. 
According to that law, anyone born after 1940 to a citizen parent is a 
citizen by birth. The parent does not have to be an ethnic Estonian. 
The Government estimates that under this provision some 80,000 persons 
not ethnically Estonian have obtained citizenship. The law included 
requirements for naturalization, such as a 2-year residency 
requirement, to be followed by a 1-year waiting period, as well as 
knowledge of the Estonian language. According to Max van der Stoel, the 
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) High 
Commissioner on National Minorities, over 200,000 persons experienced a 
reduction in status to that of resident alien. Citizenship is provided 
to those who were citizens in 1940 and their descendants, not to those 
who moved to Estonia during occupation (resident aliens).
    In 1995 Parliament adopted a Citizenship Law revising the 1992 law 
and combining into one statute provisions regarding citizenship that 
were scattered among several pieces of legislation. It extended the 
residency requirement for naturalization from 2 to 5 years and added a 
requirement for knowledge of the Constitution and the Citizenship Law. 
Persons who had taken up legal residence in the country prior to July 
1, 1990, are exempt from the 5-year legal residence and 1-year waiting 
period requirements. The law allows the Government to waive the 
language requirement but not the civic knowledge requirement for 
applicants who have Estonian language elementary or higher education, 
or who have performed valuable service to Estonia. In December 1998, 
Parliament approved legislation that amended the citizenship law to 
grant citizenship to stateless children born after February 26, 1992 to 
legally resident stateless parents (upon the parents' or guardians' 
application). The President proclaimed the law in December 1998, and it 
went into effect on July 12. As of September 2, parents had applied for 
citizenship for 34 such children.
    On October 1, the Government dropped the immigration quota on the 
issuance of residence permits to those noncitizens who settled in the 
country prior to July 1, 1990, and who have not departed the country 
subsequently.
    By law the following classes of persons are ineligible for 
naturalization: those filing on the basis of false data or documents; 
those not abiding by the constitutional system or not fulfilling the 
laws; those who have acted against the State and its security; those 
who have committed crimes and have been punished with a sentence of 
more than 1 year or who have been repeatedly brought to justice for 
felonies; those who work or have worked in the intelligence or security 
services of a foreign state; or those who have served as career 
soldiers in the armed forces of a foreign state, including those 
discharged into the reserves or retired. (The latter includes spouses 
who have come to Estonia in connection with the service member's 
assignment to a posting, the reserves, or retirement.) A provision of 
the law allows for the granting of citizenship to a foreign military 
retiree who has been married to a native citizen for 5 years.
    Between 1992 and August 1, 108,383 persons received citizenship 
through naturalization. The vast majority of these persons, 87,712, 
were naturalized by the end of 1996. In 1997 the Russian embassy 
reported that some 120,000 persons had obtained Russian citizenship; 
however, the Embassy declined to supply the Government with a list. The 
number of Russian citizens may be lower since the Russian Embassy does 
not appear to keep records of those who die or leave the country. The 
Government reported that by August 1 it had issued 144,631 residence 
permits to foreign nationals. As of August, the Government also had 
issued 35,816 permanent and 16,180 temporary residence permits.
    While some officials in the Russian Government and in the local 
Russian community continued to criticize the citizenship law as 
discriminatory, the OSCE as well as numerous international fact-finding 
organizations, including the Finnish Helsinki Committee, confirm that 
the Citizenship Law conforms to international standards.
    Bureaucratic delays and the Estonian language requirement are also 
cited as disincentives for securing citizenship. The Government has 
established language-training centers, but there is a lack of qualified 
teachers, financial resources, and training materials. Some allege that 
the examination process, which 75 to 90 percent pass, is arbitrary.
    There are no legal impediments to women's participation in 
government or politics. However, women are underrepresented in 
government and politics. There are 18 women among the 101 members of 
Parliament. Two ministers are women. There are four ethnic Russian 
deputies in Parliament. At year's end, the law was amended to place 
language requirements on Members of Parliament; Russian speakers 
protested.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
        Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human 
        Rights
    The Government does not restrict the formation or functioning of 
human rights organizations. In response to allegations of poor 
treatment of ethnic minorities, the President established a Human 
Rights Institute, which first convened in 1992. The purpose of the 
Institute is to monitor human rights in the country and to provide 
information to the international community. It investigates reports of 
human rights violations, such as allegations of police abuse and 
inhuman treatment of detainees. In 1997 the Institute established an 
information center in the heavily ethnic Russian town of Kohtla-Jarve. 
In addition because of tensions surrounding the adoption of the 
Elections Law and the Aliens Law in 1993, the President established a 
roundtable composed of representatives of Parliament, the Union of 
Estonian Nationalities, and the Russian speaking population's 
Representative Assembly. An analogous but independent roundtable meets 
in the county of East Virumaa. In addition with initial funding from 
the Danish government, a nongovernmental legal information center in 
Tallinn provides free legal assistance to individuals--citizen and 
noncitizen alike--seeking advice on human rights-related issues.
    Because of repeated Russian allegations of human rights violations 
among the noncitizen population, both the OSCE mission in Estonia and 
the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities have declared that 
they could not find a pattern of human rights violations or abuses in 
the country. The Government in 1998 addressed two outstanding 
recommendations of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, 
by simplifying the civic knowledge portion of the naturalization 
process and passing legislation to grant automatic citizenship to 
children born after February 26, 1992 to resident stateless persons 
upon parental application. There are also at least 10 nongovernmental 
organizations devoted to developing and implementing local programs to 
assist the integration of non-Estonians into society.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
        Language, or Social Status
    The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, 
religion, disability, language, social status, or for any other reason. 
The Government reports that no court cases charging discrimination have 
been filed. Two court cases begun in 1998 are pending but have not come 
to trial, regarding allegations of racial hatred fomented by a leader 
of a Russian military pensioners' group in northeast Estonia. The 
pensioners' leader organized an unauthorized assembly in the city of 
Sillamae and claimed that the human rights of the Russian pensioners in 
the region were abused by the Government. There are no regulations on 
how deaf or blind persons are to take the language or citizenship 
tests.
    Women.--Violence against women, including spousal abuse, was the 
subject of increasing discussion and media coverage. According to 
women's groups and law enforcement officials, family violence is not 
pervasive. Rape and attempted rape occur relatively infrequently. 
During the year, there were reports of 50 rapes and 3 attempted rapes, 
compared with 53 rapes and 14 attempted rapes for 1998. However, 
studies show that 40 percent of crime in the country goes unreported, 
including domestic violence. Even when the police are called, the 
abused spouse often declines to press charges.
    Both the Center of Women Citizens and a roundtable of women's 
organizations were established in 1998. Women have the same legal 
rights as men and legally are entitled to equal pay for equal work. 
Nevertheless, although women's average educational level was higher 
than that of men, their average pay was lower, and the trend did not 
seem to be improving. There continue to be female- and male-dominated 
professions. Women constitute slightly more than half of the work 
force. They also carry major household responsibilities.
    Children.--The Government's strong commitment to education is 
evidenced by the high priority that it gives to building and 
refurbishing schools. The Government provides free medical care for 
children and subsidizes school meals. In 1992 the Government adopted a 
Law on Child Protection patterned after the U.N. Convention on the 
Rights of the Child.
    There is no societal pattern of child abuse, but a 1995 research 
project conducted by the nongovernmental Estonian Union for Child 
Welfare on children and violence at home found that a significant 
proportion of children had experienced at least occasional violence at 
home, in schools, or in youth gangs. In the first 7 months of the year, 
police registered 10 cases of sexual abuse--7 female victims and 3 male 
victims. In the same time period, there were 54 cases of procurement 
for prostitution of victims younger than age 16. Also in the first 7 
months of the year, there were no rape cases in which the victim was 
younger than 14.
    People with Disabilities.--While the Constitution contains 
provisions to protect disabled persons against discrimination, and both 
the State and some private organizations provide them with financial 
assistance, little has been done to enable the disabled to participate 
normally in public life. There is no public access law, but some effort 
to accommodate the disabled is evident in the inclusion of ramps at 
curbs on new urban sidewalk construction. Public transportation firms 
have acquired some vehicles that are accessible to the disabled, as 
have some taxi companies. There are no regulations on how deaf or blind 
persons are to take the language or citizenship tests.
    National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities.--The OSCE mission in Estonia, 
established in 1993, continued to promote stability, dialog, and 
understanding among communities. The President's Roundtable, also 
established in 1993, is composed of Members of Parliament, 
representatives of the Union of Estonian Nationalities, and the 
Representative Assembly of the Russian Community; it continued to work 
toward finding practical solutions to problems of noncitizens. The 
analogous but independent roundtable that met in the northeastern part 
of the country (see Section 4) worked on similar issues.
    The Law on Cultural Autonomy for citizens belonging to minority 
groups went into effect in 1993. The tradition of protection for 
cultural autonomy dates from a 1925 law. Some noncitizens termed the 
law discriminatory, since it restricts cultural autonomy only to 
citizens. The Government replied that noncitizens can participate fully 
in ethnic organizations and that the law includes subsidies for 
cultural organizations.
    The population is slightly less than 1.5 million. Ethnic Russians 
total approximately 29 percent, and nonethnic Estonians total 
approximately 37 percent. During the years of the country's forced 
annexation by the Soviet Union, large numbers of non-Estonians, 
predominantly ethnic Russians, were encouraged to migrate to Estonia to 
work as laborers and administrators. These immigra