Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1992

* A separate report on Hong Kong, a dependent territory of the United Kingdom, follows this
report on the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is a constitutional
monarchy with a democratic, parliamentary government elected in periodic,
multiparty elections. As there is no written constitution, human rights are "residual,"
I.e., assumed unless limited by statute.
ITiroughout the UK, public order is maintained by civilian police forces responsive
to and controlled by elected officials. Because of terrorist violence, the Royal Ulster
Constabulary (RUC) in Northern Ireland is supported by army units.
The United Kingdom has a highly developed industrial economy. Persons may
own property and pursue private economic interests. The GJovemment provides comprehensive
social welfare services.
Terrorist bombings and killings carried out by the illegal Provisional Irish Republican
Army (PIRA) and other "republican" (Catholic) and loyalist" (Protestant) terrorist
groups in Northern Ireland and Britain are the greatest threat to public order
and security in the UK. By the end of 1992, over 3,000 people had died in 23 years
of "the troubles" in Northern Ireland, which has a population of 1.5 million. Dozens
more have been killed in PIRA attacks on the mainland of Great Britain, including
four in 1992. Emergency measures enacted because of the terrorist problem in the
past 20 years suspend certain due process guarantees and restrict freedom of movement,
expression, and association. In 1992 there were a few instances of the use of
excessive force by security forces. Seven persons were killed in 1992 by on-duty security
forces in Northern Ireland. The (jovemment investigated each case; two soldiers
were charged with murder in one instance. Nine members of the security
forces were killed in Northern Ireland. After British courts held in several cases
that convictions of alleged terrorists in past years were based on unreliable evidence
and coerced confessions, the Government in 1991 appointed a Royal Commission to
review the criminal justice system in England and Wales and announced that consideration
would be given to applying to Northern Ireland any resulting recommendations
(see Section I.e.). The tensions and long-held grievances between the
two communities in Northern Ireland have caused some persons. Catholic and
Protestant, to be denied equality of rights and opportunities despite government efforts
to redress these grievances.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing.
There were no political killings by
the Government. However, questions about instances of extrajudicial killing continued
to be raised. In Northern Ireland, 84 persons were killed in incidents related
to terrorism, including 34 by republican terrorists, 38 by loyalist terrorists, and
seven by on-duty security forces. Three were killed by an off-duty policeman who
later committed suicide, and, in the two remaining cases, the perpetrators or motives
are unknown. Nine of those killed were members of British security forces.
Deaths as a result of shootings by security forces in Northern Ireland continued to
prompt charges that soldiers resort to letnal force precipitately and were carrying
out a "shoot to kill" policy. In one such incident in Feoruary, four acknowledged
PIRA terrorists were killed by security forces shortly after having attacked an RUC
station in Coalisland. Human rights groups claimed that excessive force was used
and that the men could have been arrested rather than killed. The police are investigating
whether the use of force was warranted. In September Peter McBride was
shot and killed while running away from an army patrol. Two soldiers have been
charged with murder. In November Pierce Jordan was shot and killed by police after
a car chase. A police investigation has begun, but no charges have been filed. Following
an RUC investigation, a police officer was charged with murder for the Sep-
tember 1991 shooting death of a 19-year-old student. Two Royal Marines were
charged in February with murder for the December 1990 killing of Fergal Caraher
in South Armagh. The Government has denied that a "shoot to kUl" policy ever existed.
All killings by security forces—police or army—are investigated by the police.
The Independent Commission for Police Complaints (ICPC), established by the Government,
monitors these investigations but has little independent investigative capability.
Although the European Convention on Human Ri^ts establishes a standard
for use of lethal force only when "absolutely necessary" in specific circumstances,
British law requires only that the use of lethal force be "reasonable in
the circumstances." Soldiers involved in shooting incidents have argued that they
were in "imminent danger" before opening fire. The courts have generally accepted
this defense, and there have been very few convictions of on-duty soldiers.
In cases involving killings, the emergency laws stipulate that soldiers and policemen
must be charged with murder; there are no provisions for lesser charges such
as manslaughter or unlawful killing. Prosecutors and judges have been reluctant to
seek and impose such heavy penalties.
Security forces in Northern Ireland continued the use of plastic bullet rounds
(PBR's) for riot control, thou^ their use has declined sharply in recent years; there
were no fatalities from PBR's in 1992. The PIRA continued to carry out killings in
Northern Ireland and Great Britain. PIRA bombs have caused extensive property
damage, and a large bomb in London in April killed three people, including a 15-
year-old girl. There has also been a substantial rise in the number of persons killed
by loyalist terror groups in Northern Ireland.
b. Disappearance.
There were no disappearances attributed to government
forces. There continued to be instances of persons abducted or held hostage by terrorists
in Northern Ireland.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
British laws forbid torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of
prisoners and provide penalties for violations of those laws. Confessions obtained by
such methods are not admissible as evidence in court. A new code of practices that
came into force in 1991 brought about greater standardization of police interrogation
procedures and strengthened oversight requirements. However, allegations of torture
and mistreatment of persons detained by the police in holding facilities in
Northern Ireland continued.
The Independent Commission for Police Complaints in Northern Ireland has limited
powers. It reviews all complaints against the police, and automatically supervises
police investigations of those involving death or serious injury, as well as any
others of its choosing. It may insist that disciplinary charges be preferred against
police officers and may comment on the quality of police investigations but has no
control over the outcome of disciplinary cases or prosecution decisions by the Director
of Public Prosecutions. In its first 2 years of operation, the ICPC failed to substantiate
any of the 840 claims of ill-treatment in police custody submitted to it. In
a majority of cases, complainants refused to cooperate with police or ICPC investigations
of their claims. Others point out that complainants often prefer to sue in civil
court, where they may be awarded payment oi significant damages as a result of
court rulings or out-of-court settlements.
Although the Government acknowledges the widespread perception of abuses during
detentions, it has so far refused to accept human rights groups' recommendations
that interrogations in police custody be videotaped, on the grounds that the
tapes could compromise ongoing operations and jeopardize the safety of detainees
who cooperate with the police. Instead, the Government announced in December the
appointment of a senior barrister as Independent Commissioner for Holding Centers.
He has the authority to make irregular and unannounced visits to any of the
three holding centers, observe interrogations on television monitors, and interview
Security forces in Northern Ireland frequently harass citizens verbally, particularly
young people in areas where community support for PIRA is considered high.
Security forces nave also been accused of more serious incidents of mistreatment.
In May, after a member of the Paratroop Regiment lost his legs in a PIRA bombing,
a series of confrontations between members of the regiment and residents of the
town of Coalisland resulted in the beating of several townspeople and four soldiers
and in shooting injuries to three local youths. The regional army commander was
relieved of his post, and the RUC announced in November that six soldiers would
face criminal charges.
Northern Ireland terrorist groups frequently carry out "punishment shooting" of
persons allegedly engaged in "antisocial activities." These assaults, which typically
involve shooting through one or both knees at short range, have been widely con960
demned. One person died in December from injuries sufTered in a PIRA
Prison facilities in the UK are generally good, although a Government-appointed
investigator has found problems of overcrowding, substandard conditions and lax
discipline at some prisons in Great Britain. In Northern Ireland, prison facilities
have improved notably in recent years, but conditions at some holding centers are
substandard. Uniformed police observe all interrogations on television monitors but,
as noted above, they do not allow tapes to be made.
In March, in a prison for female offenders at Ma^aberry in Northern Ireland,
female police conducted a "full search" of about 21 inmates after receiving information
that a weapon had been smuggled into the prison. Some of the women resisted,
and several were injured. Human rights groups condemned the use of a "strip
search" and questioned the use of force. The Grovemment maintained that with the
cooperation of prisoners a "full search" does not involve physical contact and can be
completed quickly.
d. Arbitrary Ajrest, Detention, or Exile.—In instances when reasonable cause to
suspect criminal guilt exists, police may make arrests without warrants. Those arrested
without warrant must be released on bail within 36 hours unless brought before
a magistrate's court. The court may authorize an additional 60 hours of detention
before charges must be brought. Generally, persons charged with what British
law defines as nonserious" offenses mav be released on bail. In cases such as
crimes of violence, however, magistrates have remanded persons for periods of up
to 18 months before trial.
Reacting to the violence in Northern Ireland, the Government adopted the Northem
Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act of 1991 (EPA), which is applicable only to
Northern Ireland, and the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act of
1989 (PTA), most of which is applicable to the entire United Kingdom. Both acts
replaced earlier versions dating back to 1973 and 1974 respectively. Both must be
renewed annually by Parliament.
Under the EPA, police and military personnel, in dealing with cases of suspected
terrorism, may enter and search without warrants, and members of the armed
forces on duty may arrest without a warrant, any person suspected of having committed
or being about to commit any offense. Such persons may be held for up to
4 hours, after which they must be transferred to police custody or released. The
1991 EPA introduced new offenses—of directing a terrorist organization and possessing
items intended for terrorist purposes—and gave authorities new powers to
examine financial and other documents found in terrorist-related searches. The PTA
allows the police to arrest without warrant persons anywhere in the UK whom they
reasonably suspect to be involved in terrorism. The authorities may detain such persons
for up to 48 hours without legal representation or judicial review. Suspects
may be interrogated during this time, and confessions obtained may be used in subsequent
court proceedings. Judicial review may be delayed up to a further 5 days
on the authority of the Home Secretary or, in Northern Ireland, the Secretary of
State for Northern Ireland. In 1988 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that
detention of terrorist suspects beyond 4 days without iudicial review violated the
European Convention for the Protection of Human Rignts and Fundamental Freedoms.
The Government, arguing that no satisfactory judicial mechanism could be
found, filed a derogation from the Convention.
The Government does not practice exile (see, however. Section 2.d. on freedom of
movement within the country). In Northern Ireland, PIRA has forced a substantial
number of Catholics to leave the province, by threatening them with death or injury
if they remain. Such threats are made generally on the grounds that these Catholics
have cooperated with security forces or engaged in "antisociail behavior."
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Fair trial is provided for by law and generally observed
in practice, but there have been serious exceptions in the past. An indigent
defendant has the right to counsel of his choosing. All criminal proceedings must
be conducted in public, with the exception of juvenile court cases and cases involving
public decency or security. In a trial under the Official Secrets Act, the court may
be closed at the judge's discretion, but the sentence must be passed in public.
The UK has a multitier court system. The vast majority of criminal cases are
heard by magistrate's courts, which are managed by locally based committees. Their
decisions may be app>ealed to the Crown Court, which also hears criminal cases requiring
a jury trial, or to the High Court. From the Crown Courts, convictions may
be appealed to the Court of Appeal, which in turn may refer cases involving points
of law to the House of Lords. The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (which
consists of senior judges and is functionally distinct from the legislative arm of the
House) is the final court of appeal in the UK. Once all these appeals have been exhausted,
defendants in England and Wales may appeal to the Home Secretary to
refer a case back to the courts if fresh evidence has emerged which casts doubt on
the conviction. (Appeals may be made to the Northern Ireland Office emd the Scotland
Office in those areas.)
Since 1989, following referrals from the Home Secretary, courts in England have
overturned the convictions of 18 persons previously imprisoned in connection with
PIRA terrorist attacks in the 1970's. The most recent such decision, in June, involved
Judith Ward, convicted in 1974 of involvement in three bombings, in one of
which 12 persons died. In the Ward case (repeating similar findings in the Birmingham
Six, Maguire Seven, and Guildford Four cases), the Appeal Court concluded
that Ward's confession was unreliable, that forensic evidence against her was
tainted, and that exculpatory evidence had been withheld from the defense. The
Court's ruling in the Ward case established a precedent that all evidence held by
the prosecution, whether or not intended for use in court, may be released to the
defense at the judge's discretion.
Twenty additional convictions have been quashed in nonterrorist cases since 1989,
most of them on grounds similar to those in the Ward case. According to critics in
the UK and abroad, the pattern that emerged brings into question whether trials
under the British judicial system always meet international standards of fairness.
In at least the cases in question, lower courts relied too heavily on uncorroborated
confessions and assumed that the integrity of the police was irreproachable. Appeal
court judges tended to accept lower court rulings and occasionally displayed open
hostility to defendants and their lawyers.
In Northern Ireland in July, the Court of Appeal overturned the convictions of
three former soldiers for the murder of a Catholic in 1983. The conviction of a fourth
soldier was upheld. The RUC is investigating apparent irregularities in police questioning
of the soldiers.
Such apparent miscarriages of justice prompted the Government in March 1991
to appoint a Royal Commission to review all aspects of the criminal justice process
in England and Wales. The Commission has collected submissions from numerous
professional bodies, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals, and has commissioned
survejrs of lawyers, defendants, and the general public on how the administration
of justice is perceived. The Commission is scheduled to publish its findings
in June 1993. Although the Commission is not studying Northern Ireland, the Government
indicated it would consider whether changes implemented as a result of the
Commission's findings might also be applied in Northern Ireland.
In 1973 the Government suspended the ri^t to trial by jury for certain terroristrelated
offenses in Northern Ireland because of intimidation of the judiciary, jurors,
and lawyers. In such cases, a "Diplock Court," in which a single judge presides over
a trial without juiy, is used. The judge in a Diplock Court must justify his or her
decision to convict in a document that becomes part of the court record, and appeal
courts may overturn Diplock Court convictions on substantive as well as legal
grounds. These courts have been widely criticized by human rights groups, although
the conviction rate for defendants pleading not guilty is virtually identical to the
rate in regular courts.
Under a 1988 change of law, a court in Northern Ireland may draw whatever inference
it deems proper, including an inference of guilt, if a subject remains silent
during questioning, though he cannot be convicted solely on the basis of such an
inference. The change was intended to deal with a PIRA tactic of advising members
not to say anything under interrogation, then to present a surprise alibi at trial,
but it substantially erodes the presumption of innocence. Courts in Northern Ireland
have drawn inferences from silence in approximately 10 cases in 1992, though in
each case there was additional evidence to support conviction.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
right to privacy is generally respected in both law and custom. Warrants are normally
required for a police search of private premises. However, under the EPA, onduty
members of the armed forces or policemen may enter any premises or other
place if they consider it necessary to preserve peace or maintain order. The Act requires
a standard of "reasonable grounds of suspicion" before a dwelling may be entered
without a warrant.
In the Catholic communities in Northern Ireland, where distrust of the Government
has deep historical roots, many believe that the conduct of some members of
the security forces in carrying out security checks constitutes unwarranted harassment
and intimidation. The Government conducts intensive training of security personnel
in proper procedures but acknowledges that official guidelines are sometimes
Section 2. Respect for Civil Ldberties, Including
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Strongly held tradition, an independent press,
and a democratic political system combine to secure freedom of speech and press.
Viewpoints critical of the Government are well represented. British print media are
dominated by a handful of national daily newspapers, all privately owned and highly
independent (though often generally aligned with one of the major political parties).
About half the electronic media is run by the British Broadcasting Service
(BBC), which is funded by the Government but ei^joys complete editorial independence.
The remainder are run by corporations under renewable government license.
The Government continued to prohibit British radio and television from broadcasting
the voices of members of proscribed terrorist organizations such as PIRA
and of representatives of Sinn Fein (the legal political arm of the PIRA), as well
as the voices of those who "solicit, support, or invite support for such organizations."
Critics chaiffe that the vagueness of this last category intimidates broadcasters into
appl3ring the ban even in ambiguous cases. There are no restrictions on reporting
such persons' words, and exceptions are made for coverage of elections and parliamentary
In 1991 an independent television station broadcast a documentary that alleged
that poUce forces in Northern Ireland worked in collusion with loyalist death
squads. Officials protested the documentary, and in July the High Court fined those
responsible for the program for revising to divulge the identity of a key anonymous
informant. In September police arrested the researcher who worked on the program
on perjury charses, which were later dropped.
b. Freedom ^ Peaceful Assembly ana Association.—Except in cases of extreme
civil disorder in which public safety is judged to be at risk, the authorities do not
exercise their statutory right to limit the freedom of public assembly. The PIA and
EPA include sections prohibiting membership in, or support of, organizations involved
in terrorism. These organizations are specifically listed in the statutes. The
lists do not include political parties. In August the loyalist Ulster Defense Association
(UDA), nominally the political wing of the banned Ulster Freedom Fighters,
was added to the proscribed list.
c. Freedom of Religion
Government policy and general practice ensure freedom
of religion. There are two established churches in Britain—those legally recognized
as official churdies of the State: in England the (Anglican) Church of England, and
in Sa)tland the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland, in Northern Ireland, the Constitution
Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination by public authorities on the basis of
religious belief or political opinion (see Section 5 concerning the Fair Employment
Act). There is no similar law in Great Britain. There are no religious bars to holding
public office, although ministers of the Church of England and the Church of Scotland
are not eligible to be Members of Parliament.
Tlie Government provides funds for many schools maintained by various religious
denominations, including Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists, and Jews. In May 1992,
the High Court ruled that a local council's decision to deny funding to a Muslimrun
school was "manifestly unfair" and that the Education Secretary should reconsider.
In Northern Ireland, the Government provides full funding for nonsectarian
(but overwhelmingly Protestant) state schools. For denominational (mostly Catholic)
schools , the Government provides 100 percent of operating costs and 85 percent of
capital costs. In December, the (jovemment announced that denominational schools
could qualify for fuU state funding if no single (sectarian) group comprised a majority
of the school's board of governors.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign TYavel, Emigration, and Repatriation.—
UK citizens enjoy freedom of movement within the country and in foreign
travel, emigration, and repatriation. The Home Secretary, however, may exclude
from mainland Britain anyone connected with terrorism in Northern Ireland,
unless that person was bom in Great Britain or has been resident on the mainland
for 3 years. Similar authority is granted to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
to exclude persons not native to or resident in that province. In ordering exclusion,
the Secretary of State need only be "satisfied" that a person is or has been
involved in the commission, preparation, or instigation of acts of terrorism. Chirrently
91 persons are subject to such exclusion orders. No additional exclusion orders
were issued in 1992. Human rights groups have objected to such orders because
the evidence used is not tested in any court.
Immigration rules require that all requests for asylum be considered by the Home
Office in accordance with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
The (Jovemment makes generous provision for political refugees, but faced with an
exponential rise in asylum applications in recent years, it has introduced legislation
to speed processing of^unsubstantiated requests. Human rights groups claim the leg963
islation would undermine Britain's conunitment to provide haven for legitimate refugees.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The Government is formed on the basis of a majority of seats in the House of
Commons, won in elections held at intervals not longer than 5 years. Participation
in the political process is open to all persons and parties. In the 1992 general election,
2,903 candidates representing 93 parties were ofiicially registered. All citizens
18 ^ears of age and older may vote. Northern Ireland has city and district councils,
as m the rest of the UK, but with somewhat fewer powers. England and Wales also
have county councils, which Northern Ireland does not. (Scotland's structure is different
still.) From 1922 to 1972, Northern Ireland had a devolved provincial Parliament
at Stormont, which was suspended because its domination by the unionist
majority was seen as contributing to the troubles. Several attempts have been made
since then to restore devolved government. A third major efTort is now under way.
Most British dependent territories have small populations, under 60,000, and are
ruled by appointed governors or administrators assisted by executive councils (usually
appointed) and legislative assemblies or councils (partly elected).
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation
ofAlleged Violations ofHuman Rights
A lar^ number of local nongovenunental human rights organizations operate
freely with no government interference or restriction. In 1973 a Standing Advisoiy
Commission on Human Ri^ts was established by the Government to monitor
human rights in Northern Ireland.
A number of international nongovernmental human rights organizations, including
Amnesty International, are based in the UK. The Government cooperates fully
with international inc^uiries into alleged violations of human rights and usually
takes steps to rectify its own laws and policies when they are found not to be in
conformity with human rights agreements to which it is a party.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Socicd Status
British law bars discrimination on the basis of race, color, nationality, or national
or ethnic origin and outlaws incitement to racial hatred. Although racial discrimination
is not specifically outlawed in Northern Ireland, its incic^nce is mudi lower
than that of religious discrimination. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
has agreed to investigate the scope for possible legislation on racial discrimination
and determine what additional action should be taken by government departments
to further enhance equal treatment of ethnic groups. A government-appointed, independent
Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) supports persons taking court action
under the Race Relations Act of 1976, provides guidelines on goodpractice, and may
initiate court action. After formally investigating complaints, me CKE may issue notices
requiring that discrimination cease. Such notices are followed up over a 5-year
period to ensure compliance.
Persons of African and south Asian origin face substantial unoflicial discrimination.
Several studies have shown that they are less likely to obtain jobs and mortgages
than are whites. Members of Asian and African minorities are occasionally
victims of "skinhead" violence. The Government is strongly opposed to such discrimination
and violence, and prosecutes cases in which evidence is available.
Equal opportunity for both sexes is protected by law. An Equal Opportunities
Commission (EOC) supports persons who bring discrimination cases befbre industrial
tribunals and courts and produces guidehnes on good practice for employers.
The number of sex discrimination complaints rose 40 percent in 1991. Large companies
have begun to revise job classiHcations and pay structures in an effort to
achieve parity. In one 1992 case, a court ruled that a woman teacher was due, retroactively,
eqrual pay with her male colleagues, setting a potentially important precedent.
In a landmark sex discrimination suit before the mdustriaf tribunal, a senior
female police officer who repeatedly had been denied promotion reached a settlement
with police authorities in July, under which she received compensation, and
the EOC, was invited by the Home Office to participate in an in-depth review of
promotion and selection procedures for high-level police positions. Women have
equal property ri^ts and equal rights in the divorce courts.
Offenders in domestic violence cases are prosecuted and may be imprisoned. Women's
shelters provide refuge for battered wives, and local governments provide counseling
services. Rape victims receive similar support. In a 1991 court case brought
on appeal, the House of Lords ruled for the first time that nonconsensual sex within
marriage could constitute a criminal offense.
Discrimination on religious grounds continued to occur in Northern Ireland, including
at times by local governments. Discrimination in employment on the
grounds of religious belief or political opinion has been unlawful since 1976. Within
tiie Northern Ireland civil service, the proportion of Catholics under age 36 reflects
overall demographic patterns, but they continue to be underrepresented in the
upper age groups and grades. Government eflbrts to increase recruitment of Catholics
into the police force and related security fields have been hampered by PIRA
assassinations and death threats. For a variety of historical and social reasons, the
Protestant community controls much of the local economy, and anti-Catholic discrimination
persists in the private sector. Despite an overall increase in employment
in Northern Ireland, the Catholic male unemployment rate remained 2V2 times that
of Protestant men.
The Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act of 1989 is intended to end eniployment
discrimination and is aimed at outlawing even unintentional or "indirect discrimination.
All public sector employers and private firms with more than 25 woricers
must register with the Fair Employment Commission, monitor the religious composition
of their worit force, supply annual monitoring reports to the Commission,
and review their overall employment practices at least once every 3 years. These
obligations were ejctended to small firms (employing between 11 and 25 workers) beginning
in 1992. While the Fair Employment Act has been criticized for not establishing
sufficiently rigorous targets and timetables, in general it has been praised
by leaders of the Catholic community. Employers who fail to comply face criminal
penalties and loss of government contracts. A Fair Employment Tribunal has been
established to adjudicate individual cases of alleged discrimination. In 1992 for example,
tribunals found five local councils, including that of Belfast, guilty of discrimination
against Catholic job applicants, and directed payment of compensation.
Although most companies are in compliance with the legislation, fines for violations
have been imposed on some firms.
Section 6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Workers have the right to form and join representative
organizations, associate freely, choose representatives, publish journals, openly
promote members' interests and views, and elect representative assemblies to determine
union policies and procedures. Unions participate freely in international organizations.
Unions are free of government control but, like employers' associations, must register
their accounts with a government-appointed "certification officer." Senior union
officers must be elected by secret ballot. The law mandates secret ballots before a
strike call, prohibits unions from disciplining members who reject a legal strike call,
and allows individual trade union members to lodge complaints against their union
with a government-appointed "Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members."
There is no specific statutory "right to strike" in the UK. Voluntary cessation of
work may be considered a breach of contract. A system of legal immunities which
protected unions from prosecution when engaged in lawfiil industrial action has
been narrowed by a series of acts of Parliament introduced in the 1980's. These acts
have excluded secondary strikes and actions judged to have political motives.
Unions encouraging such strikes are subject to fines by the courts and may have
their assets seized. The legislation also restricts the ability of unions to act against
subsidiaries of prime employers with whom they are in dispute when the subsidiaries
are not party to the dispute and are the employers of record. This has led to
union complaints that they have no protection against the transfer of work within
the corporate structure (making unions the victims of a form of employer secondary
action). The 1990 Employment Act made unions Uable for aU industrial actions, including
unofficial strikes, unless the unions concerned write to strikers repudiating
their action. Unofficial strikers may be legally dismissed. In instances where the
right to strike is prohibited (e.g., for police officers), there are alternative means to
resolve differences.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1989 and again in 1991 upheld
complaints against government bans on the disciplining by unions of members who
reject lawful strike calls and on union indemnification of members and officers for
sanctions imposed for engaging in approved union activities. Following a case involving
the dismissal of 2,000 striking seamen, the ILO called for changes in legislation
to protect workers taking industrial action. The Government has contested the
conclusions of the ILO and in 1990 adopted legislation that the Trades Union Congress
(TUC) alleges violates ILO conventions by narrowing the range of situations
in which lawfiil industrial action may be taken.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right to organize and
bargain collectively is deeply rooted. There is no legal obligation for employers to
bai^ain with workers' representatives, nor have collective oargaining agreements
historically been legally binding or enforceable in the courts, but collective bargaining
is extensive, involving over 10.2 milHon workers, or about 40 percent of the work
force. It is illegal to deny a worker employment on the grounds that he or she is
or is not a union member, except in the case of the armed forces, the police, or the
security services.
The 1984 ban on membership in national unions by employees of the sensitive
Government Communications Hfeadquarters (GCHQ) led to complaints being lodged
at the ILO by the TUC. The ILO and COE has affirmed that the ban and the dismissal
of workers retaining union membership are in violation of ILO Convention
87. The 1991 and 1992 International Labor Conference expressed "deep concern" at
the continuation of the ban. The British Government maintains that its actions in
the GCHQ case fall within Convention 87's exemption for the armed forces and are
also consistent with ILO Convention 151 on labor relations in the public service. In
November the CFA found that in another case covering the civil service, the Government's
unilateral termination of a long-standing civil service arbitration agreement
was a violation of the ^reement, although not in itself a violation of Convention
151, and called on the Government and uie unions to "bargain in good faith" and
develop a new framework to settle disputes.
Workers who believe themselves victims of antiunion discrimination may seek redress
through industrial tribunals. Remedies include payment of indemnities and
reinstatement by employers found guilty of discriminatory practices, although reinstatement
rarely occurs. A backlog of tribunal cases has developed in recent years.
The ILO has ^so questioned whether British legislation adequately protects against
denial of employment on the grounds of past or present trade union activity. Evidence
of blacklisting was collected by a House of Commons Select Committee. In
September 1991, press reports detailed one organization's compilation and distribution
of a list of 22,000 activists to prospective employers.
Following a breakdown and abolition by the Government of a longstanding bilateral
collective baivaining negotiating process, teachers' pay and conditions have
been unilaterally ^termined since 1987 by the Secretary of State for Employment.
The ILO concluded that these procedures are not compatible with ILO Convention
98 on the right to organize and bargain collectively. In 1991 legislation was adopted
that provided that teachers* pay and conditions »iould be determined by an independent
review body, which was appointed in September.
Export processing zones do not exist.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited
in the UK and its dependent territories and possessions and is not practiced.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
School attendance until the age
of 16 is compulsory. Children under the age of 16 are not permitted to work in an
industrial enterprise except as part of an educational course.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is no legislated minimum wage. In 26
low-wage industries employing approximately 2 million workers, wage councils of
employers and trade union members establish minimum hourly wages and overtime
rates for adult workers. Provisions are legaUy enforced by a team of inspectors. Minimum
wage rates vary from one industry to another, but all are substantially below
the national average earnings figure, tne UK does not have a law limiting daily
or weekly working hours. In I^vember the Government introduced a bill that
would, if enacted, abolish the wage councils.
The Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 requires that the health and safety
of employees not be placed at risk. A health and safety commission enforces regulations
on these matters and may initiate criminal proceedings. The system of occupational
health and safety is efficiently managed and operates with the fuU involvement
of workers' representatives.
Hong Kong, a small, densely populated British dependency, is a free society with
legally protected ri^ts but without a broad democratic base. Its constitutional arrangements
are defined by the Letters Patent and Royal Instructions. Executive
powers are vested in a British Crown-appointed Governor who holds extensive authority.
The judiciary is an independent oody adhering to English common law with
certain variations. Fundamental rights ultimately rest on oversight by the British
Parliament. In practice, however, Hong Kong largely controls its own internal affairs.
A well-organized civilian police force maintains public order and respects the
human rights of the populace.
Hong Kong's free market economy continued its transition toward becoming a
shipping, marketing, and finance center. It serves as an investment center of trade
with China and as a communication and transportation hub for Asia. Annual per
capita gross domestic product increased by 6 percent in 1992 to a projected $16,420.
The BiU of Rights, passed in June 1991, continued to make an impact on legislative
process and criminal law. The 1-year freeze, during which six laws relating to
law and order were exempted from the bill, was lifted in June. Although the Government
established a subcommittee to educate the public on human ri^ts, it rejected
calls for the establishment of a human rights commission which would have
nad oversight over the implementation of the bul. The impact of the bill has been
limited by a court ruling tnat individuals may not invoke it in disputes with other
private citizens.
The principal human rights problem is the inability of citizens to change their
government. Discrimination and violence against women are continuing human
rights concerns.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing.
There were no reports that such
killings occurred.
b. Disappearance.
^There were no reports of any disappearance.
c. Torhtre and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.—
Torture and other extreme forms of abuse are Torbidoen by law and subject to punishment.
In 1992 an investigation into allegations of police brutality during a disturbance
in 1989 at a camp for Vietnamese boat people resulted in disciplinary action
agfdnst 42 officers. No criminal proceedings were recommended, largely because
of a lack of clear evidence identifying the oflicers involved. Individual acts of police
brutality occurred. From January to September, about 1,200 allegations of police assault
were lodged. The total number of complaints against the police during this period
numbered about 2,350. As of August, 41 cases were substantiated. Disciplinary
action can range from criminal proceedings to dismissal or waminj^. Complaints
are investigated by an internal police unit, subject to outside review. The authorities
rejected calls from some legislators that investigations should be conducted by an
independent body.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
British legal protections and common law
traditions govern the process of arrest and detention and ensure substantial and effective
legal protections against arbitrary arrest or detention. Exile is not practiced.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Hong Kong's judicial and legal systems are organized
according to principles of British constitutional law and legal precedent and
feature, inter alia, an independent judiciary and trial by jury. The right to a fair
public trial is guaranteed and respected in practice. The Giovemment expanded eligibility
for legal aid. Various court decisions striking down several presumption of
guilt provisions as incompatible with the Bill of Rights made a substantial impact
on criminal rights. A court decision also ruled that defendants have the right to trial
without undue delay.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
right of privacy is generally respected and provided for by law. Some human ri^ts
groups maintained that the amendments to the ordinances governing the Independent
Conunission Against Corruption (ICAC) did not go far enough to curb its powers.
The ICAC is vested with powers which are normally exercised only by a judicial oflicer.
The amendments deprived the ICAC of its independent authority to issue arrest
or search warrants, (it must now go to the courts.) but it stUl operates on the assumption
that any excessive, unexplainable assets held by civil servants are considered
ill-gotten until proven otherwise.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
There is a tradition of free speech and press
as practiced in Great Britain. Numerous views and opinions, including those independent
or critical of the British and Hong Kong Governments, are aired in the
mass media, in public forums, and by political groups.
International media organizations operate freely in Hong Kong, but restrictions
may be placed on the press under several ordinances of Hong Kong law. However,
such restrictions are rarely imposed. Hong Kong media representatives have ex967
pressed concern over the provision of a 1988 ordinance that permits the censoring
of a film if it would seriously danaa^e good relations with "other territorial units.
In April the People's Republic of China (PRC) criticized the showing of a film on
Tibet at a film festival and succeeded in preventing the showing of a documentary
on life in Bering. In September the local PRC-controlled press launched an attack
against government-owned Radio Television Hong Kong (RtHK) for producing a television
m'ama series which was viewed as anti-Qiina. These attacks led to concern
that self-censorship was rising when {>ublishers were dealing with matters where
the PRC is involved. Some observers said that publishers are reluctant to print anything
that would jeopardize their business relations with the PRC. The PRC also
objected to the Government's proposal to "corporatize" RTHK, giving rise to concern
that the PRC wants to use it as a propaganda organ after 1997, when control of
Hong Kong wiUpass to the PRC.
In June the Grovemment applied the less restrictive British 1989 Official Secrets
Act in place of the 1911 version. Removing from criminal sanction the unauthorized
disclosure of the great majority of official information, the 1989 Act made it an offense
to disclose such information only in six specific categories such as security,
intelligence, and defense. Critics favored replacing the 1911 Act with locally enacted
legislation since the 1989 Act will be void after Hong Kong reverts to PRC sovereignty.
The Government refused to consider freedom of information legislation.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
These freedoms are practiced
without significant hindrance, although the amended Societies Ordinance requires
office holders to notify the authorities of the formation of a society.
c. Freedom of Religion
Government policy and general practice ensure freedom
of religion.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Travel documents are obtainable freely and easily, subject to neither
arbitrsuy nor discriminatoiy practices. There is freedom of movement within Hong
By 1991 more than 200,000 Vietnamese had arrived in Hong Kong seeking refufee
status. Prior to June 1988, they were automatically accorded refiigee status,
hereafter they were screened to determine their status and were held in prisonlike
detention centers awaiting resettlement in other countries or repatriation to
Vietnam. As of late November, 12 Vietnamese had arrived in 1992 following agreements
reached in late 1991 that provided for the mandatory repatriation to Vietnam
of those determined not to be refugees, the immediate screening of new arrivals, and
the decision by the VN. Hi^ Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to cease providing
a reintegration subsistence allowance.
A February riot claimed the lives of 24 Vietnamese who burned to death in a hut
barricaded shut by other detainees. This clash, fueled by tensions between northern
and southern Vietnamese, resulted in the trial of 42 (still ongoing in December) and
a reexamination of camp management practices. A slow response by police, with an
inadequate number of personnel on duty, was blamed for the severity of the tragedy.
Most of the 13 recommendations made by an independent commissioner appointed
after the riot were implemented. A recommendation to add personnel to accelerate
screening was aimed at keeping the camp population from languishing in a state
of uncertainty. At year's end, even wth augmented staff, the authorities had completed
determination of status only through 1989 arrivals. Reintegration assistance
programs from the European Community, the Hong Kong Government, and most recently,
the United States, provided incentives for those not eligible for resettlement
to return to Vietnam. Of those found ineligible for resettlement or not yet screened,
more than 12,000 persons voluntarily returned to Vietnam by year's end.
The Government maintained its policy of forcibly returning Chinese citizens to the
People's Republic of China, except in rare instances in which a person qualified as
a refugee within the meaning of the U.N. Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees,
m 1992 an average of 88 illegal immigrants, mostly young men, were arrested
every day and were returned.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
While Hong Kong is a free society, with most individual freedoms and ri^ts protected
by law and custom, citizens of the territory do not have the right to change
their government. The Governor is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the
Crown. He is advised on policy by an Executive Council which he appoints. Legislation
is enacted and funds are provided by the Legislative Council, which also debates
policy and questions the administration. Although the legislature has virtually
no power to initiate legislation, it has become more assertive since the September
1991 direct elections. The Governor has ultimate control of the administration of
Hong Kong, but, by convention, he rarely exercises his full powers. In practice, decisions
are arrived at by consensus. Political parties and independent candidates are
free to contest seats in free and fair elections. Representative government employing
universal franchise, however, does not exist. Only 18 of 60 legislators were elected
by universal suffrage. Of the rest, 21 were either appointed by the Governor or are
themselves government officials. Another 21 were elected by functional groupings,
e.g, lawyers. Functional constituencies disproportionately represent the economic
and proiessional elites and, moreover, violate the concept of one person-one vote,
since voters in functional constituencies may vote both m a functional and a geographic
In his first policy address in October, the Governor introduced several proposals
to make the 1995 legislature more democratic. K adopted by the Legislative Council,
they will greatly increase the franchise by giving all eligible voters in the woiking
population of 2.7 million a second vote in one oT 30 functional constituencies. The
Election Committee, which will elect 10 legislators, will draw all or most of its members
from the local district boards, which will henceforth be directly elected, rather
than one-third appointed, as is the case now. The number of legislators to be elected
by universal suffrage will increase to 20. China has denounced these proposals and
warned that any changes which do not "converge" with the Basic Law, Hong Kong's
post- 1997 Constitution, will be dismantled after the PRC resumes its exercise of sovereignty
in 1997. However, both the British and Chinese Governments earlier
agreed that the number of legislators to be elected by universal suffrage in 1995
will increase to 20.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations ofHuman Rights
There are no official barriers to the formation of local human rights groups. The
Government has consistently cooperated with international and nongovernmental
organizations on human rignts issues. The UNHCR and nongovernmental human
ri^ts organizations have full access to Hong Kong's camps for Vietnamese boat people.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
The Chinese language has equal status with English in many government operations.
The Government is continuing its efforts to place Hong Kong Chinese in senior
positions, but progress has been slow, especially in the legal and police departments
and the judiciary.
Violence and discrimination against women remain significant problems. The only
legislation to protect the rights of battered women is the 1987 Domestic Violence
Ordinance, which enables a woman to take out a 3-month injunction on her husband.
This may be extended to 6 months. In addition, domestic violence may be
prosecuted as common assault under existing criminal statutes. The Government
enforces these laws and prosecutes violators. Nevertheless, women's action groups
are pressing for better legal and government provisions for battered wives. They call
for public housing to house women as soon as they leave their violent husbands.
Harmony House, a private voluntary agency, and the Social Welfare Department operate
two homes which offer refuge to a small number of women.
Many instances of domestic violence, however, are not reported, owing partly to
cultural factors which frown on exposing family crises to the public eye but also to
a lack of well-publicized information about the assistance and resources available.
In September uie police, woricing with Harmony^ House, announced the availability
of leaflets setting out new sidelines for the police to deal with the issue of domestic
violence and providing victims with information about their legal rights and the assistance
Women face discrimination in the areas of employment, salary, welfare, and promotion.
In March the Government set up a working group to look into the problem
of discrimination against women in employment and to advise whether the Government
should extend the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against
Women to Hong Kong. Nevertheless, the Government itself admitted that it was
"cautious" in its response to calls to accede to the Convention and to set up a women's
commission. While a number of women hold senior appointive government positions,
only two women were elected to the legislature.
Section 6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The ri^t of association and the right of workers to
establish and join organizations of their own choosing are guaranteed under local
law. Trade umons must be registered under the trade unions ordinance. The basic
precondition for registration is a minimum of 7 persons who serve in the same occuI
pation. The Government does not discourage or impede the formation of unions.
During 1991, 21 new unions were registered. Nevertheless, only about 489,000
workers (or 17.5 percent) out of a total labor force of 2.8 million belong to one of
the 511 registered unions, most of which belong to one of three major trade union
Work stoppages and strikes are permitted. However, there are some restrictions
on this right for civil servants. Employees hired on a contract basis may be fired
for breach of contract if they walk off the job. Hong Kong labor unions may form
federations, confederations, and affiliate with international bodies. Any afliUation
with foreign labor unions requires the consent of the Government. All such requests
have been granted.
As a dependent territoiy of the United Kingdom, Hong Kong is not a member in
its own right of the International Labor Oi^anization (ILO). The United Kingdom
makes declarations on behalf of Hong Kong concerning the latter's obligations regarding
the various ILO conventions. To date, Hong Kong has implemented provisions
applying 29 conventions in full and 18 others with modifications. In the Basic
Law, the PRC undertook to continue to adhere to these conventions after 1997.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right to oi^anize and
bai^ain collectively is guaranteed by law. Hong Kong laws pertaining to collective
bai^gaining cover mainfy the shipping, textiles, public transport, public utUity, and
carpentry trades and the catering, construction, pubUc service, and teaching professions.
Wages are determined by market factors. While collective bargainmg does
take place, it is not widely practiced, and in general there are no mechanisms specificaUy
to encourage it. LJnions generally are not powerful enough to force management
to engage in collective bargaining. The Government does not encourage it,
since the Government itself does not engage in collective bargaining with civil servants'
unions but merely "consults" them. Free conciliation services are afforded by
the Labor Relations Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) to employers and
employees involved in disputes dealing with arrears of wages, wages in lieu of notice,
severance pay, breaches of contractual employment terms, etc. This division is
charged with fuuung a mutually acceptable settlement, although it does not have
the authority to impose a solution. The division is not reoruired by law to allow
unions to represent employees in these proceedings. Instead, union representation
depends upon tiie mutual consent of both the employee and the employer.
Workers are protected against antiunion discrimination under Hong Kong legislation.
Employees who allege such discrimination have the right to have their cases
heard by the DOL's Labor Relations Division. Employers who attempt to prevent
or deter an employee from joining a labor union, or who terminate an employee for
joining a labor union, are liable to a fine of approximately $650. However, the employers
are not required to reinstate the employee or to compensate him. Individual
labor claims are also adjudicated by the labor tribunal, a part of the judicial branch,
which is supposed to provide quick and inexpensive machinery for resolving certain
types of disputes. The tribunal complements the conciliation service provided by the
Labor Relations Division. Union leaders complain, however, that the tribunal takes
too long—an average of 133 days—to hear workers' cases.
There are no export processing zones in Hong Kong.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Existing labor legislation prohibits
forced labor, and it is not practiced.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The Employment of Children Regulations
prohibit the employment of children under age 15 in any industrial establishment.
Children aged 13 and 14 may be employed in certain nonindustrial establishments,
subject to conditions aimed at ensuring a minimum of 9 years' education
and protecting their safety, health, and welfare. During 1991, 8 campaigns against
the employment of children covered about 27,000 establishments and found 39 children
working in violation of the law, according to the Annual Report of the Commissioner
for Labor.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is no minimum wage. Aside from a
small number of trades and industries where a uniform wage structure exists, wage
levels are customarily fixed by individual agreement between employer and employee
and are determined by supply and demand. In view of continued tightness
in Hong Kong's labor market (unemployment averaged about 2 percent for 1992),
wage increases were given to most workers, particularly those in the construction
industry and service sectors. Many employees also enjoy a year-end bonus of a
month's pay or more. Some employers in the manufacturing sector provide workers
with various kinds of allowances, free medical treatment, and free or subsidized
There are no legal restrictions on hours of work for men. The Women and Young
Persons (Industry) Regulations under the Employment Ordinance control hours and
conditions of work for women and young people aged between 15 and 17. Hours of
work are limited to 8 per day ana 48 per week oetween 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. for
women and between 7 am. and 7 p.m. for persons age 16 or over. Overtime is restricted
to 2 hours per day and 200 days per year for women and is prohibited for
all persons under 18 in industrial establishments. The regulations also prohibit
women and young persons from working underground or, with the exception of
males aged 16 and 17, in dangerous trades. The Labor Inspectorate conducts workplace
inspections to ensure compliance with these regulations. During 1991 it carried
out 220,828 inspections of almost 27,000 establishments in industrial and
nonindustrial sectors, which resulted in 567 prosecutions of employers. The employment
of underaged workers is generally not a serious problem.
The DOL Factory Inspectorate sets basic occupational safety and health standards,
provides education and publicity, and follows up with enforcement and inspection
in accordance with the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance and
subsidiary regulations. The Inspectorate pays particular attention to safety in highrisk
areas of factories and construction sites. During 1991 inspectors visited 24,682
factories and 1,181 construction sites and issued 1,393 summones. As part of a complementary
effort, the DOL Occupational Health Division investigates claims of occupational
diseases and iiyuries at worii, conducts environmental testing in the
workplace, and provides medical examinations to employees in occupations that involve
the handling of hazardous materials. The small number of inspectors—about
200—and the inability of workers to elect their own safety representatives weaken
the enforcement of safety and health standards at the workplace.