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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - St Kitts and Nevis

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - St Kitts and Nevis, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4b4.html [accessed 13 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
 

St. Kitts and Nevis, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, is a small two-island state with a democratic, parliamentary form of government. The Constitution provides the smaller island of Nevis considerable self-government, as well as the right to secede from the Federation if certain enumerated procedures are followed. The country is governed by a Prime Minister, a Cabinet, and a Legislative Assembly. General elections must be called at least every 5 years. The Governor General, with largely ceremonial duties, is the titular Head of State. In national elections held on November 29, Prime Minister Kennedy Simmonds and his People's Action Movement won four parliamentary seats. The St. Kitts Labor Party, led by Dr. Denzil Douglas, also won four seats and polled a majority of the popular votes. However, Prime Minister Simmonds formed a coalition with the Nevis Reformation Party to retain control of the Government.

Security forces consist of a small police force, which includes a 50-person Special Services Unit that receives some light infantry training, and a small coast guard. The police were unable to contain violence after the disputed elections, but members of the Regional Security System (RSS) from neighboring Eastern Caribbean islands restored order.

St. Kitts and Nevis has a mixed economy based on sugar cane, tourism, and light industry. Most commercial enterprises are privately owned, but the sugar industry (the country's largest economic enterprise) and 85 percent of all arable land are owned by a state corporation. Economic growth continued at about 6 percent, due partly to agricultural exports and to investor confidence in plans to develop further a deep water port facility and the southeastern peninsula of St. Kitts.

Human rights continued to be generally respected during 1993. However, the Governor General imposed a state of emergency following violent protest demonstrations over the appointment of the minority coalition Government. The 12-hour curfew also imposed was gradually lifted, and the state of emergency was withdrawn after 14 days. The Government continued to restrict access of the political opposition to government-controlled media.

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 extrajudicial killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

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

Law enforcement authorities abide by the constitutional prohibitions against the use of torture or other forms of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Family members, attorneys, and clergy are permitted to visit detainees regularly.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and this provision is respected in practice. The law requires that persons detained be brought before a court within 48 hours. Even under the special powers granted during the 14-day state of emergency, detainees were afforded their constitutional rights to a court appearance within 48 hours. Few curfew violators were detained and less that 10 people were arrested in connection with the demonstrations.

There were no reported cases of exile.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides that every person accused of a crime must receive a fair, speedy, and public trial, and these requirements are generally observed. The judiciary, a part of the Eastern Caribbean legal system, is highly regarded and independent. Final appeal may be made to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. There are no military or political courts. Legal assistance is available for indigent defendants.

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

Neither the Government nor the police interfere arbitrarily in the private lives of individuals. Judicially issued warrants are required to search private homes.

Section 2 Respect For Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and these provisions are, for the most part, respected in practice. However, the Government owns the only radio and television station on St. Kitts, and these media generally did not publicize adequately rallies and conventions held by the opposition political party. There is a religious television station and a privately owned radio station on Nevis.

St. Kitts and Nevis does not have a daily newspaper; each of the major political parties publishes a weekly or biweekly newspaper. The papers are free to criticize the Government and do so regularly and vigorously. International news publications are readily available.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right of peaceful assembly. Organized demonstrations, rallies, and public meetings sponsored by political parties occur regularly, usually taking place without government interference. However, during 1993, opposition parties complained of government intimidation at political rallies in the form of excessive police presence or armed nonparty supporters. After a postelection demonstration turned violent, the Government imposed a state of emergency. The state of emergency, aimed at crowd control and violence avoidance, prohibited public gatherings of more than two people and all political rallies. The state of emergency successfully quelled the violence and was suspended after 14 days.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for the free exercise of religion, and religious practices are not restricted. All groups are free to maintain links with coreligionists in other countries.

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

Travel inside and outside the country is unrestricted.

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

Citizens are able to change their government by peaceful means. A vigorous multiparty political system exists in which political parties are free to conduct their activities. Periodic elections are held in which all citizens 18 years of age and older may register and vote by secret ballot.

The Legislative Assembly has 11 elected seats; 8 for St. Kitts and 3 for Nevis. Before the November 29 elections, Prime Minister Kennedy Simmonds' People's Action Movement (PAM) held a majority of seats, but the dismissal of the Deputy Prime Minister following charges of corruption and growing support for the opposition St. Kitts Labour Party created a hotly contested race for political leadership. The PAM won only four of eight seats at stake in St. Kitts and came in second in the popular vote. The St. Kitts Labour Party, led by Dr. Denzil Douglas, won the remaining four seats and also polled a majority of the popular votes. The Concerned Citizens' Movement (CCM) won two of the three Nevis seats; the Nevis Reformation Party won the remaining one. Prime Minister Simmonds formed a coalition with the Nevis Reformation Party to retain control of the Government. However, since that coalition represents less than half of the total seats in parliament, it is vulnerable to a vote of no confidence by the combined opposition parties.

The island of Nevis has considerable self-government and its own legislature. In 1992 Vance Amory and the CCM won control of the Nevis Assembly by defeating the Nevis Reformation Party, which was closely allied with the PAM. The two national parliament seats won by the CCM in the November 29 election gave Amory the options of forming a government with either St. Kitts party or joining the Labour Party to support a successful no-confidence vote.

Although there are no de facto or de jure impediments to the participation of women in leadership roles in government or political parties, St. Kitts and Nevis has only one female member of parliament. Women also hold such high government offices as permanent secretary and are active within the political parties.

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

While there are no governmental restrictions, no local human rights groups have been formed. There were no requests for investigations or visits by international human rights groups in 1993.

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

Women

The role of women in society is not restricted by law but is circumscribed by culture and tradition. The Government created the Ministry of Women's Affairs to help redefine the role of women in society, to ensure that women's rights are promoted, and to provide counseling for abused women. According to a Ministry official, violence against women is a problem, but many women are reluctant to file complaints or pursue them in the courts. Despite this reluctance, there were publicly reported cases of both domestic violence and rape in 1993 and a few convictions. A special police unit works closely with the Ministry of Women's Affairs to investigate domestic violence and rape cases. The Government does not condone abuse of women and it is not a common practice.

Children

The Government has adopted through legislation most of the provisions of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. An estimated 20 percent of national revenue is allocated to child development issues.

People with Disabilities

Although there is no legislation to protect the disabled or to mandate accessibility for them, the Government and the Constitution prohibit discrimination in employment, education, and other state services.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right of all workers to form and belong to trade unions. The police, civil service, and other organizations are permitted to have associations which serve as unions. The major labor union, the St. Kitts Trades and Labour Union, is affiliated with the opposition St. Kitts Labour Party and is active in all sectors of the economy. There is also an independent teachers' union, a union representing dockworkers in the capital city, and a taxi-drivers' association.

The right to strike, while not specified by law, is well established and respected in practice. There were no major strikes in 1993. Unions are free to form federations or confederations and to affiliate with international organizations. The islands' unions maintain a variety of international ties.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

Labor unions are free to organize and to negotiate for better wages and benefits for union members. Antiunion discrimination is prohibited, but employers found guilty are not required to rehire employees fired due to antiunion discrimination. However, the employer must pay lost wages and severance pay. There is no legislation governing the organization and representation of workers, and employers are not legally bound to recognize a union, but in practice employers do so if a majority of workers polled wish to organize. Collective bargaining takes place on a workplace-by-workplace basis, not industry wide. The Labour Commission is prepared to mediate all types of disputes, including over wages, rights, or interests, between labor and management on an ad hoc basis. In practice, however, few disputes actually go to the Commission for resolution. If neither the Commission nor the Minister of Labour can resolve the dispute, legislation allows for a case to be brought before a civil court.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution forbids slavery and forced labor, and they do not exist in practice.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum legal working age is 14. The Labour Ministry relies heavily on school truant officers and the Community Affairs Division to monitor compliance, which they do effectively. Local law mandates compulsory education up to the age of 16.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Minimum wage rates for domestic servants and retail store employees were established by law in 1984 and updated in 1989. The minimum wage is $37.04 per week for domestic workers and $33.33 per day for skilled workers. These provide an adequate, though Spartan, living for a wage earner and family; many workers supplement wages by keeping small animals such as goats and chickens. Most people live in extended families where there may be more than one wage earner. The Labour Commission undertakes regular wage inspections and special investigations when complaints are received; employers found in violation are required to pay back wages.

The law provides for a 42- to 44-hour workweek, but the common practice is 40 hours in 5 days. Although not required by law, workers receive at least one 24-hour rest period per week. Workers are guaranteed a minimum annual vacation of 2 weeks. While there are no specific health and safety regulations, the Factories Law provides general health and safety guidance to Labour Ministry inspectors. Disputes over safety conditions are settled by the Labour Commissioner.

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