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ROMANIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994

AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

DATE: FEBRUARY 1995

ROMANIA


CONTENTS

  • Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person
  • Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties
  • Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
  • Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
  • Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
  • Section 6 Worker Rights


Romania is a constitutional republic with a multiparty parliamentary system and a directly elected president as chief of state. In the 1992 presidential election, Ion Iliescu was reelected President with 61 percent of the popular vote. A minority Government led by Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu and supported by the Party of Social Democracy of Romania (PDSR) has held power since the 1992 parliamentary elections, despite the fact that the PDSR holds only 34 percent of the parliamentary seats. After the Government withstood a vote of no confidence on June 30 by a narrow margin, the Prime Minister in August brought the nationalistic Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR) into the Government, giving it two Cabinet seats. On September 12, the sitting Minister of Justice declared that he had joined the PUNR, bringing its total of Cabinet seats to three. On December 23, the Government more comfortably withstood another no-confidence vote.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs supervises the operations of the police. While there were fewer reports in 1994 of police misconduct or failure to enforce the law, the military prosecutor's office, which has legal responsibility in such cases, was lax in prosecuting instances of police abuse. Political and religious activists continued to assert credibly that unknown agents subjected them to surveillance and harassment.

Romania has a mixed economy, with industrial production based on metal and mineral products, textiles, and electric machinery, and a rich agriculture. The Government continued to struggle with the painful transition to a market economy. Economic growth resumed in 1993 and continued at a slow pace in 1994. Progress on structural economic reform has been mixed, although observers expect it to accelerate following parliamentary approval of the Government's mass privatization bill. About one- third of gross domestic product now originates in the private sector. A tough International Monetary Fund-backed economic stabilization plan cut inflation from 10 percent to 1.5 percent per month and helped stabilize the currency. The phasing out of all consumer subsidies (except those on bread and milk) and strict government austerity allowed the national budget to run a small surplus by mid-1994. The unemployment rate, a little over 10.5 percent, is expected to rise as the state-owned industrial sector is privatized.

The Government generally respected most internationally recognized human rights, although the police continued to abuse detainees physically, and the Government often failed to try and punish those responsible appropriately. Discrimination and violence against Roma continued, generally with impunity for those responsible. At year's end, 14 people charged with offenses in the May outbreak of violence against the Roma community in Racsa were still awaiting trial, now set for January 1995. The Government's Council for National Minorities, widely hailed in 1993, appeared largely ineffective in 1994. Societal discrimination and violence against women remained a problem, frequently unrecognized by the Government.


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. A railway police officer charged in 1993 with abusive treatment leading to the death of a beggar was still awaiting trial in Timisoara at the end of 1994. In the 1993 case of an arrestee in Dorohoi who died, ostensibly of heart failure, after a week in police custody, the military prosecutor dropped charges against the police because of a lack of evidence. In May a Bucharest military court sentenced two police officers charged with torture and murder in a 1992 case to 15 years' imprisonment. Upon judicial review, this sentence was upheld in November.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearance.

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

The Constitution prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment, and these prohibitions were generally respected in practice. However, police continue to use excessive force during arrest and to beat detainees. The military prosecutor's office is charged with legal oversight of the police, a situation that human rights organizations allege inhibits aggressive prosecution or discipline of police misconduct.

Meanwhile, there was a credible report from the Romanian Helsinki Committee of a prisoner kept in solitary confinement with handcuffs on, as well as credible reports of regular handcuffing to beds as a form of extra restraint.

Several human rights organizations reported, credibly, that abuses persisted in overcrowded prisons, which continued to use the "cell boss" system in which some prisoners are designated to be in semiofficial charge of other prisoners. Prisoners also suffered from lack of medical care. Only the Jilava penitentiary has its own infirmary, and prisoners from around the country requiring medical care are sent there. But even at Jilava medical standards are low. One 14-year-old prisoner, sentenced in 1992 to the sole facility for minors in Gaiesti, contracted tuberculosis there. In August 1993, he was transferred to Jilava and in April 1994 was finally moved to a civilian hospital. It took 3 months to effect his transfer to the civilian hospital from Jilava after the medical determination to do so had been made. A few days later, at age 16, he died. Apparently recognizing the dearth of adequate medical care, Jilava in 1994 released at least one pretrial detainee from custody for medical reasons, pending trial.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Romanian law forbids the detention of anyone by police for more than 24 hours without an arrest order from a prosecutor, who may order detention for 30 days. Detainees have the right to apply for bail and may ask for a hearing before a judge. The case must be heard within 24 hours of such a request. In the absence of a request, however, the authorities may hold a person for up to 65 days without a court order, and they do not adequately inform many citizens of their rights.

The law requires the authorities to inform an arrestee of the charges. He or she also has the right to have an attorney present at all stages of the legal process, and police must notify the defendant of this right, in a language the defendant understands, before obtaining any statement from the arrestee. However the prosecutor's office may delay action on a request for a lawyer for up to 5 days from the date of arrest. The local bar association provides attorneys to indigents and is compensated by the Ministry of Justice.

Both court-appointed counsel and privately hired lawyers, however, were reportedly negligent in some instances in defending their client's rights. One prison commandant noted that lawyers had visited his several hundred prisoners only seven times in 1 month. This is significant because prisons house not only prisoners serving sentences but also most detainees awaiting trial.

Exile was not used as a means of punishment.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The 1992 law on the reorganization of the judiciary, which officially took effect in 1993, provides for the establishment of a four-tier legal system, including appellate courts, which ceased to exist under Communist rule in 1952. Final recourse is to the Supreme Court or, for constitutional matters, to the Constitutional Court, established in 1992.

Cases involving military personnel and the police (who are still subordinated to the military prosecutor) and criminal acts against the State (including treason and espionage cases) are tried in a three-tier military court system. Local and international human rights groups criticize this system, especially investigations conducted by the military prosecutor's office against police personnel accused of abuses. They claim these investigations are unnecessarily lengthy and often purposefully inconclusive (see Section l.c.).

Under the terms of the 1992 law, the courts are supposed to be independent of the executive branch, but in fact the Minister of Justice controls the selection and promotion of judges. In some cases, court decisions supported private individuals and groups against government institutions in matters such as the restitution of property and injunctions against government action. Some labor unions alleged, however, that the courts side with the Government when they rule on the legality of strikes and other labor actions. They charged further that no Romanian court has ever ruled in favor of the workers in a labor action against a governmental entity. To date, the judicial system has yet to demonstrate that it is fully independent and free of executive branch interference.

Defendants benefit from a presumption of innocence. The Criminal Code requires that, if a defendant cannot afford legal representation or is otherwise unable to select counsel, an attorney will be appointed for him. Either plaintiff or defendant may appeal. In practice, these provisions of the law are respected. While it is probable that some confessions are still extracted through police brutality, every accused person has the right, and is afforded the opportunity, to withdraw such confessions in court, telling the judge that he or she was beaten, threatened, or otherwise forced to provide the confession under duress. There is evidence, moreover, that progress is being made in the legal scrutiny of police activity. The Romanian human rights organization SIRDO has reported that the military prosecutor in Suceava district has aggressively investigated even old cases involving allegations of confessions obtained through torture, including reopening convictions from 1989 and 1990.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The Constitution provides for legal protection against the search of a residence without a warrant, but this protection is subordinate to "national security or public order." The 1992 National Security Law defines national security very broadly and lists as threats to national security not only crimes such as terrorism, treason, espionage, assassination, and armed insurrection but also totalitarian, racist, and anti-Semitic actions or attempts to change the existing national borders. Security officials may enter residences without proper authorization from a prosecutor if they deem a threat to national security "imminent."

The Constitution further states that the privacy of legal means of communication is inviolable; thus, the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) is legally prohibited from engaging in political acts (e.g., monitoring the communications of a political party). However, the laws on national security allow it to engage in such monitoring on national security grounds. Similarly, although the law requires the SRI to obtain a warrant from a prosecutor to carry out intelligence activities involving "threats to national security," it may engage in a wide variety of operations, including "technical operations," in order to determine if a situation meets the legal definition of a "threat to national security."

In 1994 arbitrary interference with individual citizens' rights to privacy was infrequent; however, some nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) and Protestant church groups alleged that current or former government intelligence services opened their mail and tapped their telephones. The tenor of official responses to such complaints was always that the SRI itself was not involved, but that unreconstructed agents of the Securitate, the Communist-era internal intelligence service, or independent individuals were involved. In addition, both Romanian citizens and foreign diplomats credibly reported opened mail, personal surveillance, and harassment.

The Government took some measures to investigate reports of such continuing abuses. In September the prosecutor's office brought to trial the former head of the SRI in Maramures county, accused of illegally tapping wires for the PUNR in the 1992 local elections. The SRI had dismissed the accused immediately following the alleged incident, but his trial attracted increased public attention after the appointment of the new Minister of Telecommunications, who is a member of the PUNR and was head of the telecommunications service in Maramures at the time of the alleged infraction. However, the court dismissed the case in October on procedural grounds before trying it.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Although the Constitution provides for freedom of expression and prohibits censorship, the same provision qualifies freedom of expression by prohibiting "defamation of the country." Moreover, Romania's current Penal Code punishes acts of "defamation" and "outrage" with several years in prison. Thus, while the independent media generally criticize political and governmental leaders freely and openly, several journalists were tried and sentenced to fines or prison terms for slander. The police detained a journalist from Craiova, Nicolae Andrei, for 5 days in March for writing two satirical articles on President Iliescu; neither his case nor the suit he subsequently filed against the police had been tried by year's end.

Until November, it appeared that the government monopoly of printing and of newsprint supplies was eroding; several private printing houses were in operation, and some publishers had found private sources of paper as well as other supplies. However, the nationwide newsprint shortage in November, accompanied by the prohibitively high import tax on newsprint, forced some papers to curtail their circulation temporarily and emphasized the dependence of the Romanian press on the single, government- controlled domestic source of newsprint. The state distributor remains the only organization generally capable of delivering newspapers and magazines nationwide, although at least one Bucharest daily has undertaken its own distribution to distant parts of Romania.

The independent electronic media continued their rapid growth, although most operate under circumstances that limit their audience. Romanian State Television (RTV) and Radio Romania remained the only national broadcasters. Parliament passed a long-awaited administrative law in 1994 which established boards of directors, to be appointed by Parliament, for both RTV and Radio Romania in an attempt to assure their editorial independence. The effect of this law in practice remains to be seen.

Private broadcasters expanded greatly. As of December, 25 independent television stations and 65 radio stations were broadcasting. Romanians have extensive and growing access to foreign broadcasts due to the proliferation of cable television throughout the country.

Foreign news publications may be imported freely and distributed, but their high cost limits their circulation. Academic freedom both inside and outside the classroom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly. The law on public assembly provides for the right to assemble peacefully while unarmed but states that meetings must not interfere with other economic or social activities and may not be held near locations such as hospitals, airports, or military installations. Organizers of demonstrations must inform local authorities and police before the event. The authorities may forbid a public gathering by notifying the organizers in writing within 48 hours of receipt of the request. The law prohibits the organization of, or participation in, a counterdemonstration held at the same time as a scheduled public gathering.

The law forbids public gatherings to espouse Communist, racist, or Fascist ideologies or to commit actions contrary to public order or national security. It punishes unauthorized demonstrations or other violations by imprisonment and fines. Constitutional provisions and laws on free assembly were generally respected in 1994.

Romanians may form associations, including political parties, and may obtain legal status for them by proving membership of at least 251 persons.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the Government does not generally impede the observance of religious belief. However, several small Protestant denominations have occasionally made credible allegations that low-level government officials harassed them and impeded their efforts at proselytism, worship, and construction of church buildings.

A 1948 decree officially recognizes 15 religions whose clergy may receive state financial support. The State Secretariat for Religious Affairs has licensed another 120 faiths and denominations under a 1930's law on clubs and associations, entitling them to juridical status as well as to exemptions from income and customs taxes. The Romanian Orthodox Church, to which approximately 86 percent of the population at least nominally adhere, is predominant. Approval of new applications for official registration is very slow due to bureaucratic problems.

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

The Government places no restrictions on travel within Romania, except in the case of certain small areas used for military purposes, nor do citizens who wish to change their places of work or residence face any official barriers. The law stipulates that citizens have the right to travel abroad freely, to emigrate, and to return. In practice, Romanian citizens freely exercise these rights.

In 1992 Germany and Romania agreed that 60,000 Romanian citizens (40 percent of them ethnic Roma according to German government statistics), whose requests for refugee status in Germany had been rejected, be repatriated to Romania. This return began in 1992, and while substantial numbers have been repatriated during the ensuing period, by the end of 1994 a significant portion still remained in Germany. Those that have returned have received little or no resettlement assistance, and reintegration is complicated by various types of discrimination against Roma (see Section 5).

In 1991 Romania signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol but still does not have legislation or an effective program to implement the Convention. Of some 60,000 to 80,000 illegal migrants believed to reside in Romania, less than 2,000 were registered as asylum seekers in 1994, and even for them government assistance beyond legal entitlements to basic education and medical assistance is minimal. Such migrants are overwhelmingly single males who regard Romania primarily as a way station to other destinations.

Meanwhile, the Government repatriated to their home countries approximately 150 illegal migrants. In February the Government repatriated or forcibly returned 102 Tamils to Sri Lanka, despite the stated concern of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that these people had a legitimate fear of persecution in their home country. However, the UNHCR has monitored the condition of the returnees in Sri Lanka and is satisfied that they have not been persecuted since their return. Currently, there are slightly over 100 recognized refugees in Romania.

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

Citizens have the right to change their government.

The Constitution and electoral legislation grant each recognized ethnic minority one representative in Parliament's Chamber of Deputies, provided that the minority's political organization obtains at least 5 percent of the average number of valid votes needed to elect a deputy outright (only some 1,100 votes in the 1992 elections). Organizations representing 13 minority groups elected deputies under this provision in 1992. The ethnic Hungarians, represented by the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR), besides receiving 1 allocated representative under this provision, obtained 27 additional seats in the Chamber and 12 in the Senate through the normal electoral process. Roma are underrepresented in Parliament, partly due to their low turnout and their internal divisions, which work against the consolidation of votes for one Roma candidate, organization, or party, and they have not been able to achieve any parliamentary representation beyond the one seat provided through the Constitution and electoral legislation.

There are no legal restrictions on the participation of women in government or politics, but societal attitudes constitute a significant impediment. There are only a few women in Parliament and none in the current Cabinet.

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

Domestic human rights monitoring groups include the Romanian Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH), the Independent Romanian Society for Human Rights (SIRDO), the League for the Defense of Human Rights, the Romanian Institute for Human Rights, and several issue-specific groups such as the Young Generation of Roma and the Center for Crisis Intervention and Study, also a Roma NGO. Other groups, such as political parties and trade unions, continued to have sections monitoring observance of human rights.

These groups, as well as international human rights organizations, functioned freely without government interference and visited prisoners and detainees. However, the authorities were not always cooperative. In January RTV aired a prime-time 2-hour documentary prepared by the Helsinki Committee on police abuses and investigations of such claims. The Ministry of Internal Affairs responded with a program listing the number of police who had been disciplined and informed the Helsinki Committee that the human rights bureau of the police directorate was "freezing" its relations with the Committee.

Romania was accepted into the Council of Europe (COE) in October 1993, with several recommendations attached to membership and with the provision that COE rapporteurs would visit Romania every 6 months. When rapporteurs published their first assessment in March, the Government responded in a lengthy memorandum that the report was inaccurate, and asked to be released from the rapporteur mechanism. The COE refused and has not released Romania from this mechanism. In May Parliament ratified the European Convention on Human Rights.

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

The Constitution forbids discrimination based on race, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion, sex, opinion and political allegiance, wealth, or social background. It also states that citizens are equal before the law and public authorities. In practice, however, Roma and other minorities are subject to various forms of extralegal discrimination (see below).

Women

Both the Constitution and international conventions which Romania has signed grant women and men equal rights. In practice, however, the Government does not enforce these provisions, nor does the Government focus attention or resources on women's problems.

The rate of unemployment for women is up to three times higher than that for men, and women occupy few influential and decisionmaking positions in either the private sector or government. There is no law on sexual harassment, which appears to be a widespread practice. In 1994's most celebrated instance, the deputy director of the SRI and rector of its Higher Institute for Intelligence resigned under pressure without public explanation. Press reports alleged that he had been specifically accused by one of his students of asking for sexual favors, and that this specific accusation was a central cause of his resignation.

Violence against women continued to rise. In the first 9 months of 1994, 1,833 assaults against females were reported to police in Romania. Of these, 868 were cases of rape or attempted rape, 7 of which resulted in the death or the suicide of the victim. Prosecution of rape is difficult because both a medical certificate and a witness are required to prove rape legally. In addition, a rapist will not be punished if he marries the victim. Despite the evidentiary difficulties, prosecutors in 1994 obtained a significant number of convictions for rape, which carries a penalty of between 2 and 10 years in prison. There are no functioning crisis centers, shelters, or hot lines for female victims of violent crime.

The Government in 1994 failed by and large to address the problem of domestic violence, though it is widespread by many estimates. While some authorities and doctors acknowledged the existence of family violence, many denied that it was a major issue. They invoked Romania's strong family tradition, a safeguard belied however by traditional and widely held attitudes that are reflected by such proverbs as "a woman unbeaten is a woman unloved."

Children

Infant mortality remained high, actually rising to 23.6 per 1,000, partially due to low standards and scant resources in the health sector. Private adoptions of abandoned or orphaned children increased, while the number of children housed in public institutions with poorly trained staff remained alarmingly high. Some physicians and Western experts attribute the low adoption rates from public institutions to the labyrinth of laws and bureaucracy surrounding the national Romanian Adoption Committee, supervised by the Minister of Health.

Although there was no apparent pattern of societal abuse against children in 1994, large numbers of impoverished and apparently homeless but not necessarily orphaned children roamed the streets of the larger cities. The Government does not have statistics showing the scope of the problem, but youth organizations remain acutely concerned with the deteriorating economic conditions which contribute to rises in juvenile delinquency and vandalism. Some NGO's cited special concern about the number of minors detained in jail and prison and were seeking alternative solutions, such as parole, for juveniles.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Government created a consultative Council for National Minorities in 1993 to provide a forum for dialog between the Government and all official minorities and to make recommendations to the Government regarding minority issues. Many minorities and other observers state that the Government seldom acts on the Council's recommendations.

Ethnic Hungarians constitute the largest and most prominent of Romania's minorities. The UDMR--the ethnic Hungarians' political voice--holds 40 seats in the Parliament. As in all years since the 1990 Tirgu Mures riots, 1994 witnessed no violence associated with ethnic Hungarian issues, despite several potentially incendiary incidents, such as the archaeological excavation in Cluj, plans to erect statues of World War II dictator Antonescu in Transylvania, and a highly controversial education bill.

Roma continued to be subject to acts of discrimination, harassment, beatings, and even death, with mixed reaction on the part of the Government. In May angry villagers in Racsa set fire to all 11 Roma homes in retaliation for the murder of an ethnic Romanian shepherd by two young Roma, even though the Roma had already been arrested. Police arrested 14 people who are free awaiting trial. However, the Government has failed to prosecute those responsible for the lynching of 3 Roma and the burning of 13 Roma houses in Hadareni in September 1993, despite claims by the county prosecutor's office that sufficient evidence existed to arrest several suspects. There were credible accusations that the authorities had pressured the Roma to rescind their accusations in return for having their homes reconstructed.

Roma representatives also claim, credibly, that they are discriminated against in the workplace as well as in the government allotment of land to individuals.

Religious Minorities

There were no reports in 1994 of physical attacks directed against Jewish persons or institutions or of the desecration of graves or synagogues. However, the extreme nationalist press continued its anti-Semitic harangues, which caused discomfort to the remainder of a once-large Jewish population, now numbering less than 10,000. Both the President and Prime Minister have publicly condemned anti-Semitism, other types of racism, and xenophobia. In April President Iliescu repeated his historic attendance of the year before at a ceremony to commemorate Holocaust Day at a Bucharest synagogue. He also issued a message condemning efforts to rehabilitate Marshal Antonescu, Romania's World War II dictator, as well as all other manifestations of anti-Semitism.

People with Disabilities

Difficult economic conditions and serious budgetary constraints contributed to very poor living conditions for people with physical or mental disabilities. Many disabled people cannot use government-provided transportation discounts because public means of transportation have no facilitated access. Accessibility, including handicapped parking, is not mandated by law.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

All workers except public employees, police, and military personnel, have the right to associate freely, to engage in collective bargaining, and to form and join labor unions without previous authorization. There are legal limitations on the right to strike only in industries such as defense, health care, transportation, and telecommunications which the Government considers critical to the public interest. No worker may be forced to join or withdraw from a union, and union officials who resign from elected positions and return to the regular work force are protected against employer retaliation. The majority of Romanian workers are members of about 18 nationwide trade union confederations and smaller independent trade unions.

Union members complain that unions must submit grievances to government-sponsored conciliation before initiating a strike and are frustrated with the courts' propensity to declare illegal the major strikes on which they were asked to rule (also see Section 1.e.). Past studies have indicated that the 1991 labor legislation falls short of International Labor Organization (ILO) standards in several areas, including the free election of union representatives, binding arbitration, and financial liability of strike organizers. Although the 1991 legislation is supportive of collective bargaining as an institution, the contracts that result are not enforceable in a consistent manner. However, in 1994, the Government moved to promote a new tripartite collective bargaining relationship among government, labor, and employers. Unions representing divergent sectors of the economy carried out strikes, or threatened to strike, throughout 1994.

The 1991 legislation stipulates that labor unions should be free from government or political party control, and the Government has observed that in practice. Unions are free, however, to engage in political activity and have done so.

Labor unions may freely form or join federations and affiliate with international bodies. The Alfa Cartel and CNSLR-Fratia are affiliated with the World Confederation of Labor and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, respectively. Representatives of foreign and international organizations freely visit and advise Romanian trade unionists.

The ILO Committee of Experts at the 1994 ILO conference noted that the Government, which asserted there was no discrimination against Roma, had reported that some 22 percent of Roma men and 71 percent of Roma women were unemployed. Referring to the Government's establishment in 1993 of the Council for National Minorities, the Committee requested information about steps being taken to provide education, training, and employment for the minority population.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers have the right to bargain collectively under the 1991 legislation, but collective bargaining efforts are complicated by continued state control over most industrial enterprises and the absence of independent management representatives. Basic wage scales for employees of state-owned enterprises are established through collective bargaining with the State (see Section 6.e.). In addition, most workers and pensioners receive thrice-yearly increases indexed to prospective price increases.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection (MOLSP) effectively enforces this prohibition.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is 16, but children as young as 14 or 15 may work with the consent of their parents or guardians, although only "according to their physical development, aptitude, and knowledge." Working children under 16 have the right to continue their education, and the law obliges employers to assist in this regard. The MOLSP has the authority to impose fines and close sections of factories to enforce compliance with the law, which it enforces effectively.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Most wage rates are established through collective bargaining at the enterprise level. However, they are based on minimum wages for given economic sectors and categories of workers which the Government sets after negotiations with industry representatives and the labor confederations. Minimum wage rates are generally observed and enforced. In 1994 the minimum monthly wage (nominally about $35 in December) did not keep pace with inflation and did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. However, the Government still partly subsidizes basic necessities such as housing and medical care.

The Labor Code provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours or 5 days, with overtime to be paid for weekend or holiday work or work in excess of 40 hours. The Labor Code does not specifically include a requirement for a 24-hour rest period, although this is implied in the provision for a standard workweek of 5 days. Paid holidays range from 15 to 24 days annually, depending mainly on the employee's length of service. The law requires employers to pay additional benefits and allowances to workers engaged in particularly dangerous or difficult occupations.

Some labor organizations press for healthier, safer working conditions on behalf of their members. The MOLSP has established safety standards for most industries and is responsible for enforcing them. However, it lacks sufficient trained personnel for inspection and enforcement, and employers generally ignore its recommendations. Although they have the right to refuse dangerous work assignments, workers seldom invoke it in practice, appearing to value increased pay over a safe and healthful work environment. Neither the Government nor industry, still mostly state-owned, has the resources necessary to improve health and safety conditions in the workplace significantly.

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