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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - St Lucia

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 Lucia, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3528.html [accessed 25 October 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. Lucia is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. For almost three decades (except for a hiatus between 1979-82), the Government has been led by Prime Minister John Compton, whose United Workers Party (UWP) first came to power in 1964. His party defeated the main opposition St. Lucia Labour Party in 1987 and again in April 1992. The UWP currently holds 11 seats in the 17-member House of Assembly.

The Royal St. Lucia Police, which is the only security force in the country, includes a small Special Services Unit with some paramilitary training and a coast guard unit. The police are controlled by and responsive to elected government officials. Although the police have traditionally demonstrated a high degree of respect for human rights, in 1993 there were a few instances of alleged physical abuse by police and prison officials.

The economy is largely based on the export of bananas, which also represent the principal source of foreign exchange earnings. To offset overdependence on this source, St. Lucia diversified into other types of agriculture, tourism, and, more recently, into light manufacturing and construction. Economic performance in all sectors was relatively strong during 1993. Unemployment, unofficially estimated as high as 20 percent, remains a source of potential instability.

Most human rights were respected during 1993, but there continued to be some reports of police abuse of prisoners and detainees. Violence against women remained a problem.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no confirmed reports of political or other extrajudicial killings in 1993.

In August 1992, a Dominica-born prison officer in the capital city of Castries shot dead an inmate serving a 20-year jail term for rape, then was himself found dead in an apparent suicide. The prison officer had intervened in an altercation between two inmates and was attacked by one of the prisoners. The officer left the prison, returned with his personal firearm, and shot the prisoner who assaulted him. The matter was to be considered by an official commission of inquest in late 1993 or early 1994.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances or politically motivated abductions.

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

The Constitution specifically prohibits torture, and no such incidents were reported. However, there has been an increase in the number of convictions based on confessions in St. Lucia in recent years, which may reflect an effort to force confessions in lieu of other investigative approaches. There were occasional credible allegations of physical abuse of prisoners by law enforcement officials prior to and during incarceration. In one incident, a former St. Lucian government minister accused police of beating his two sons at a public event in September 1992 and filed a civil suit against the officer allegedly involved. At year's end, this matter was before the court.

In July police investigated allegations by a 14-year-old girl that she was raped by policemen in a police station in the northern part of the island. The girl had been picked up twice before for loitering but was not being detained on charges at the time of the incident. On October 7, paramilitary policemen (Special Services Unit) shot dead two farmers during a scuffle to clear a blockade farmers had erected on the road to protest low banana prices. Responsibility for this incident was still being investigated as of year's end.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Government adheres to the constitutional provisions prohibiting arbitrary arrest or imprisonment and requiring a court hearing within 72 hours after detention. There were no reports of arbitrary arrest or other forms of extralegal detention, or of forced exile in 1993.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution requires public trials before an independent and impartial court and, in cases involving capital punishment, the provision of legal counsel for those who cannot afford a defense attorney. Criminal defendants are entitled to select their own legal counsel, are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and have the right of appeal. Both constitutional and statutory requirements for fair public trials are followed. The regional West Indies Court of Appeal, a circuit court long noted for its impartiality, serves as St. Lucia's Appeals Court. The Privy Council in the United Kingdom serves as the ultimate court of appeal.

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

There were no reports of arbitrary intrusion by the State into the private lives of individual citizens. Authorities consistently observed constitutional prohibitions against arbitrary search, seizure, and entry.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Constitutional provisions for free speech and press are respected in practice. The Government neither interferes with the operations of the press nor censors the content of the three privately owned major newspapers, which cover the spectrum of political opinion and are often highly critical of the Government. The one local television station is also privately owned and covers a wide range of views. In addition, viewers may receive cable television service which provides broadcasting from a variety of sources. Radio St. Lucia is government owned and operated, but the programming staff has been allowed a large measure of autonomy.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of association and of assembly are provided for by the Constitution. Permits for public meetings and demonstrations are necessary if meetings are to be held in public places such as streets, sidewalks, or parks. Permits are routinely granted. When permits are denied, it is normally because the police are concerned with the number and location of demonstrators and the number of police available who are trained in crowd control. Refusal to issue a permit is rare and generally stems from the failure of the organizers to request a permit in a timely manner, normally defined as a 48-hour notice.

In 1991 and 1992, the opposition St. Lucia Labour Party objected strongly to denial of marching permits on a few occasions by the Police Commissioner. The party occasionally disregarded the decision and held its demonstration anyway. There was a similar incident in November when the opposition party planned a march in support of protesting banana farmers but was denied a permit by the Police Commissioner.

c. Freedom of Religion

The majority of the population is Roman Catholic. Other denominations are free to maintain places of worship, train clergy, establish religious schools, and engage in the full range of activities normally associated with religious organizations.

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

These rights are provided for in the Constitution and honored in practice.

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

St. Lucia's parliamentary system provides for genuine choices among parties, policies, and officials. Although there are two main parties, several other political organizations also participate in free elections, which are held at least every 5 years by secret ballot. The opposition St. Lucia Labour Party plays a significant role in the country's political life and holds 6 out of the 17 seats in the House of Assembly.

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

While there are no local human rights groups in St. Lucia, there are no government restrictions which would impede their establishment. International human rights organizations filed no reports or requests for investigations in 1993.

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

Government policy is basically nondiscriminatory in the areas of housing, jobs, education, and advancement opportunities. There are no legal restrictions on the role of women or minorities.

Women

General awareness of the problem of violence against women has increased. Sexual harassment and battering are included as curriculum topics in some secondary schools. The police force asked for help in conducting a workshop for officers responsible for investigating rape and other crimes against women. Police and courts enforce laws to protect women against abuse, although police generally tend to be reluctant to intervene in domestic disputes. Lack of statistical data and possible reluctance on the part of some victims to report cases of domestic violence or to press charges make it difficult to gauge its true extent.

The St. Lucia Crisis Center monitors abuses (physical, mental, and emotional), and deals with such issues as incest, nonpayment of child support, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, custody, and visitation rights. The group publicized the plight of battered women and has protested the deaths of women who were victims of domestic violence. Extreme cases of this sort are not common. The Crisis Center is also working to establish a shelter for battered women and homeless girls.

The Women's Affairs Division of the Ministry of Community Development and Social Affairs has responsibility for government policy in this area. Its objectives include protecting rights of women in domestic violence cases, ensuring – in compliance with U.N. conventions – that no discrimination takes place against women, and guaranteeing equal treatment in employment and overall equal status with men. The Division is also pursuing implementation of the National Policy Statement on Women adopted by Parliament in March 1991. In 1993 other activities included the establishment of an income-generating project for unemployed women and an AIDS training workshop.

Children

A Children's Rights Act was passed in 1992 which details the Government's generally strong commitment to children's rights and welfare. However, the Government lacks the resources, organization, and skills needed to effect much positive change in this area. The problems most affecting the welfare of children in St. Lucia are domestic violence and incest.

People with Disabilities

Awareness of the rights of the disabled has risen in recent years, but representatives of the National Council for the Disabled say that public education should be increased. There is no specific legislation protecting the rights of disabled, but the Council is pressing for development of a bill that would increase educational opportunities and guarantee access to public facilities for disabled people. There is no rehabilitation facility in St. Lucia, although the Ministry of Health operates a community-based rehabilitation program in people's homes.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution specifies the right of workers to form or belong to trade unions under the broader rubric of the right of association. Unions are independent of the Government and are free to choose their own representatives. Union elections are often vigorously contested. All unions are free to publicize their views and choose policies to advance their members' interests. There is no restriction on forming a national labor federation, and several of the major unions in St. Lucia have joined together to form an umbrella grouping called the "Industrial Solidarity Pact." Unions are free to affiliate with international organizations, and some have done so.

Strikes in both public and private sectors are legal if efforts by the Government to resolve disputes fail. Strikes, as well as slowdowns and total work stoppages, do occur from time to time. In 1992, there were disputes between two unions over representation in the electricity company, Lucelec, and in some hotels. The industrial disputes were resolved after the Labour Ministry conducted polls of employees to determine which union had collective bargaining rights. Because St. Lucia does not have trade union recognition legislation, the polls were done based on past practice rather than on local labor law.

Banana farmers staged a violent protest strike in October over what they considered to be inadequate prices. Their dispute was with the St. Lucia Banana Growers' Association and the St. Lucia Government, however, and was not over labor issues. In November employees at St. Lucia's state owned radio station went on strike following the firing of general manager Alva Clarke. Clarke was fired following the station's airing of a controversial radio call-in show during the banana strike that contained violently antigovernment comments – one caller advocated killing the Prime Minister – that were seen as a breach of acceptable norms of free speech, even in a live on-the-air program. However, striking employees were unhappy not so much with Clarke's firing as with general working conditions and what they considered outdated promotion and personnel management procedures. After 1 week, the station went back on the air after Prime Minister Compton intervened in his position as Minister of Information and promised that worker demands would be addressed.

A second strike was staged in November by employees of the public water and sewage authority. Employees were protesting inadequate severance pay and retirement benefits. Again, the Prime Minister intervened, promising that the employees' concerns would be addressed, and work resumed after 4 days.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

Unions have the legal right to engage in collective bargaining and fully exercise that right. The majority of wage and salary earners belong to unions. During 1989 the Government negotiated a 6-year wage agreement with six unions representing public servants, resulting in unusually harmonious government-labor relations. In the private sector, some companies offer packages of benefits with terms of employment better than, or comparable to, what a union can obtain through negotiation. This is especially true in export processing or industrial free zones (EPZ's). Antiunion discrimination by employers is prohibited by law, and there are effective mechanisms for resolving complaints. Workers fired for union activities must be reinstated. Union organizing and collective bargaining are neither legally nor administratively discouraged in the EPZ's.

Although labor law is applicable in the EPZ's, in practice many firms do not welcome union efforts to organize in the EPZ's. Some of these firms are under foreign management and employ a young, female labor force at relatively low wages. Occasionally a persistent union is successful in winning a poll in an EPZ, in which case labor law applies to collective bargaining agreements in that company.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is illegal and does not exist.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum legal working age is 14 years, as stipulated by the Women and Young Persons Act. The law is enforced effectively by Labour Ministry officials.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

St. Lucia has legislated minimum wage rates for certain occupations only, set by the Wages Regulations (Clerks) Orders, effective since February 1985. Basic office workers receive a legislated minimum wage rate of about $300 (EC$800) per month. The minimum wage is not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family, but almost all categories of workers are paid much more than the legislative minimum for clerks, which is used only as a guide for other professions.

There is no legislated maximum workweek, although common practice is 40 hours in 5 days. Shop assistants, agricultural laborers, domestics, and young persons in industrial establishments have special legislation for hours.

Occupational health and safety regulations are relatively well developed. The Labor Ministry periodically inspects health and safety conditions at places of employment under the Employees Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1985. The Act is enforced through threat of closure of business if violations are discovered and not corrected.

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