Nauru is a constitutional republic. International observers deemed the August 24 parliamentary election to be generally free and fair. Parliament elected Lionel Aingimea, a former human rights lawyer and second-term member of parliament, as president.
The police force, under the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, maintains internal security and, as necessary, external security. The country has no military force. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.
Significant human rights issues included censorship and criminal libel laws, although there were no such cases during the year.
There were no reports that government officials committed egregious human rights abuses, and impunity was not a problem.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press
The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press; however, the government owned all media and exercised editorial control over content.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government owned all media, giving it significant control over published and broadcast content.
Libel/Slander Laws: By law “unlawful vilification” and “criminal defamation” are punishable by a maximum three years’ imprisonment. There were no reports of arrests for breach of the law, although critics contended these offenses could inhibit free speech.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement
Neither the constitution nor the law specifically provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government generally respected these rights for its citizens.
f. Protection of Refugees
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: As of November there were no people housed at the Australian government’s Regional Processing Centre in the country (used to house people seeking refuge or asylum in Australia). The Australian government has been criticized for poor conditions there. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The law includes a provision for nonrefoulement.
Durable Solutions: The government grants five-year visas to asylum seekers after they receive refugee determination.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials and the government generally implemented the law effectively.
Corruption: There were no new reports of government corruption, although opposition politicians said corruption remained a problem, repeating earlier allegations the government misused funds provided by a foreign government for refugee resettlement in Nauru.
Financial Disclosure: There are no income and asset disclosure laws for appointed or elected officials.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
The government did not restrict the establishment or operation of local human rights organizations, but no such groups existed. No international human rights organizations maintained offices in the country.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The Department of Justice had a Human Rights Section staffed by a human rights adviser, two human rights officers, and a liaison officer from the secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Regional Rights Resource Team. The section was generally effective.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent trade unions or other associations. It restricts freedom of association for police. While the right to strike is neither protected nor prohibited by law, a civil servant may not foment or take part in a strike and may be summarily dismissed if found guilty of organizing a strike. The law does not specifically provide for the right of workers to bargain collectively, but it does not prohibit it. The law does not prohibit antiunion discrimination, and there is no legal right to reinstatement for dismissal due to union activity; however, workers may seek redress through the civil court system.
The government effectively enforced the law. Penalties for violations include fines, which were adequate to deter violations.
The country lacks formal trade unions. The transient nature of the mostly foreign workforce hampered efforts to organize trade unions.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The constitution prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. In general the government did not effectively enforce the law. The law does not stipulate penalties. Civil courts handle cases of forced labor. There were no reports such practices occurred.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The worst forms of child labor were not prohibited. The law sets the minimum age of employment at 16. No regulations govern type of work, occupation, or hours for workers younger than age 18, nor do they identify hazardous occupations. The Department of Human Resources and Labor is responsible for enforcing the law. The government enforced the law in the public sector but did not conduct any workplace inspections of private businesses.
The only two significant employers–the government and the phosphate industry–respected minimum age restrictions. There were reports some children younger than age 17 worked in small family-owned businesses.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
Labor laws and regulations do not prohibit discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The law requires that public servants receive equal pay for work of equal value and provides for an entitlement to maternity leave after a woman has completed six months of employment. Women working in the private sector do not have a similar entitlement.
Discrimination against women in employment and wages occurred. Societal pressures and the country’s general poverty limited opportunities for women. While women headed approximately one-third of all households, less than one-quarter of heads of households engaged in paid work were female.
Overall, 70 percent of male heads of household and 40 percent of female heads of household were economically active in either paid or unpaid work, according to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. There were no reports the government took any specific action to prevent employment discrimination.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum starting salary for public-sector employees is above the poverty level. There is no minimum salary for the private sector; approximately 26 percent of the population lived at the subsistence level.
Public-service regulations govern salaries, working hours, vacation periods, and other employment matters for government workers, who constituted more than 90 percent of salaried workers. The government has a graduated salary system for public-service officers and employees.
There is no limit to the maximum number of accumulated overtime hours and no prohibition on excessive or compulsory overtime for workers in the public sector. There are no specific regulations that govern overtime or overtime pay for private-sector workers.
Although the government sets some health and safety standards, they do not have the force of law. The law does not provide workers the right to remove themselves from a hazardous workplace without jeopardizing their employment.
The Department of Human Resources and Labor enforced labor laws in the public sector. The law allows the ministry the right to inspect a workplace at any time. Authorities can charge an employer with a criminal offense if found to be in violation of the labor law or the provisions of an employment contract, which was sufficient to deter violations. The number of inspectors was insufficient to deter violations.
With the decline of the phosphate industry, enforcement of workplace health and safety requirements continued to be lax.