2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Saint Lucia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor|
|Publication Date||11 March 2008|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Saint Lucia, 11 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47d92c772.html [accessed 21 April 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 11, 2008
Saint Lucia is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy with a population of approximately 168,000. In generally free and fair elections in December 2006, former prime minister Sir John Compton returned to power when his United Workers Party (UWP) defeated the previously ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), winning 11 seats in the 17-member House of Assembly. On September 11, Stephenson King was appointed prime minister following Compton's death two days earlier. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
While the government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, there were problems in a few areas, primarily abuse of suspects and prisoners by the police, long delays in trials and sentencing, violence against women, and child abuse.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
The government or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings; however, security forces killed one person during the year.
On September 17, police shot Fitzroy Stanislaus in the leg. Stanislaus, who was allegedly drunk and causing disturbances at the time of the shooting, bled to death shortly after. At year's end authorities concluded the police investigation and sent the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The inquest requested by the DPP into the September 2006 police killing of 20-year-old Troy Jn Jacques was before the magistrate's court at year's end.
At year's end the October 2006 manslaughter case against an officer who fired upon a commuter bus, killing 70-year-old Maurison Flavius, was still before the courts. The two other officers involved with the incident were under administrative disciplinary action.
On March 5, the DPP ruled that the November 2006 police killing of escaped convict Perry Jules in a gun battle was justified in the line of duty.
During the year the Criminal Investigations Department completed investigations on all four police killings that occurred in 2005, the results of which were awaiting inquest with the DPP at year's end.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The constitution prohibits such practices; however, prisoners and suspects regularly complained of physical abuse by police and prison officers. During the year citizens filed 200 complaints against the police, 93 of which were for assault, 23 for neglect of duty, 22 for threats, 18 for abuse of authority, 11 for insulting words, and 33 for other reasons. Authorities did not consider any of the complaints serious enough to warrant suspending or arresting any of the officers.
On April 3, police shot a 16-year-old boy in the head while the boy, who had escaped from the Boy's Training Center, was fleeing from them. The boy recovered from the incident, and on October 15, a police investigation concluded the shooting was justified.
On August 24, members of the police Special Services Unit shot Andre Halls in the leg; police said he was evading arrest for attempted murder.
The investigation into the September 2006 police officer shooting of a 17-year-old boy who was causing a disturbance resulted in the officer being charged with harm and assault. The case was still before the courts at year's end.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions generally met minimum international standards at the four-year-old Bordelais Correctional Facility, which had a capacity of 500 prisoners and held approximately that number. Some prisoners and family members complained about treatment of prisoners at the facility.
The Boys Training Center, a facility for boys charged with criminal offenses or suffering from domestic or other social problems, operated separately from the prison. The boys in the program normally stay for two years and receive vocational training while enrolled. There were allegations of poor conditions and harsh treatment of the juveniles at the facility, including beatings by police officers.
The government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, but no such visits took place during the year.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The Royal Saint Lucia Police numbered 826 officers, which included a Special Services Unit with some paramilitary training and a coast guard unit. The police force reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security, a portfolio held by the prime minister. The acting police commissioner is one of eight retired police officers contracted from the United Kingdom to enhance intelligence capacity, strengthen research and development capability, and improve management systems and processes.
Although there was little definitive evidence, it was widely believed that corruption was pervasive in the police force. The contracted senior officers implemented procedures to increase force professionalism, including a change in the promotion system from one largely based on seniority and personal loyalties to a merit-based system.
The police force's internal complaints unit received and investigated complaints made by the public against police officers. The complaint unit's findings were sent to the Police Complaints Commission, a civilian body, which reviewed the cases and made recommendations for internal disciplinary action to the police commissioner.
Arrest and Detention
The constitution stipulates that persons must be apprehended openly with warrants issued by a judicial authority and requires a court hearing within 72 hours of detention. Detainees were allowed prompt access to counsel and family. There is a functioning bail system.
Prolonged pretrial detention continued to be a problem; 150 of the prisoners at Bordelais Correctional Facility were on remand awaiting trial. Those charged with serious crimes spent an estimated six months to four years in pretrial detention.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence in practice.
The court system includes magistrate's courts and the High Court, both of which have civil and criminal jurisdiction. The lower courts accept civil claims up to approximately $1,850 (EC$5,000) and criminal cases generally classified as "petty." The High Court has unlimited authority in both civil and criminal cases. All cases may be appealed to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal. Cases also may be appealed to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom as the final court of appeal. A family court handles child custody, maintenance, support, domestic violence, juvenile affairs, and related matters.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.
Trials can be by jury, are public, and, in cases involving capital punishment, legal counsel is provided for those who cannot afford a defense attorney. Defendants are entitled to select their own representation, are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court, and have the right of appeal. Defendants have the right to confront or question witnesses.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
There is an independent, impartial judiciary in civil matters where one can bring lawsuits seeking damages for a human rights violation.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice.
2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to ensure freedom of speech and of the press.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail. The Internet was largely available in homes, offices, and Internet cafes in urban areas; infrastructure limitations restricted Internet access in some villages.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
The government continued a suspension on all applications for official registration by faith-based organizations while it revised its policy on registration. This moratorium affected the Muslim community, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and approximately 10 other organizations. While awaiting registration, religious groups had the freedom to meet and worship according to their beliefs.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Rastafarians complained of societal discrimination, especially in hiring. There was no organized Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2007 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The constitution and the law provide for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.
The constitution prohibits forced exile, and the government did not use it.
Protection of Refugees
The country is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 protocol, and no formal government policy toward refugee or asylum requests existed. In practice the government provided protection against refoulement, the return of persons to a country where there is reason to believe they feared persecution.
Although no known cases occurred, the government was prepared to cooperate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.
3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections based on universal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
In December 2006 Sir John Compton's UWP defeated Kenny Anthony's SLP by winning 11 of 17 parliamentary seats. According to electoral observer missions from both the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community, the elections were generally considered free and fair. In accordance with the constitution, the governor general appointed Stephenson King, the person who commanded the majority in the House of Assembly, as prime minister following Compton's death on September 7.
Political parties could operate without restrictions.
Four women competed in the December 2006 elections in a field of 38 candidates for 17 seats, but none were elected to the House of Assembly. In a November 26 by-election, a woman defeated three male candidates, making her the only woman elected to the house. The appointed speaker of the house was a woman. There were three women in the 11-member appointed Senate; one served as president of the Senate, and one served as the sole female member of the 14-person cabinet. The governor general was a woman.
Government Corruption and Transparency
The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implemented the law effectively.
Although there were no reports of government corruption during the year, authorities questioned Housing Minister Richard Frederick twice concerning alleged involvement in customs duty evasion. The case involved the importation of personal vehicles and occurred before Frederick was in office. At year's end authorities continued their investigation but had placed no charges against Frederick.
High-level government officials, including elected officials, are subject to annual disclosure of their financial assets to the Integrity Commission, a constitutionally established commission. The parliamentary commissioner, auditor general, and the Public Services Commission are government agencies established to help combat corruption. Parliament can also appoint a special committee to investigate specific allegations of corruption.
The law provides for public access to information, and parliamentary debates are open to the public. The Government Information Service disseminated public information on a daily basis, operated an extensive Web site, and published a number of official periodicals.
4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A few domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases, and government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.
5. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution prohibits discrimination, but there was no specific legislation addressing discrimination in employment or against persons with disabilities. However, government policy was nondiscriminatory in the areas of housing, jobs, education, and opportunity for advancement.
Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime punishable by 14 years' to life imprisonment. Police and courts enforced laws to protect women against rape, although many victims were reluctant to report cases of rape or to press charges. During the year the DPP's office received 21 rape files from police investigators, including one case of attempted rape. Of these cases, four went to trial, two of which resulted in a guilty verdict. Only nine of the 21 cases involved offenses committed during the year.
Violence against women was recognized as a serious problem. The government prosecuted crimes of violence against women only when the victim pressed charges. The family court heard cases of domestic violence and crimes against women and children, and the Castries office filed 366 cases by year's end (there was an additional family court in Vieux Fort). The Ministry of Health Wellness, Family Affairs, National Mobilization, Human Services, and Gender Relations assisted victims. Most of the cases were referred to a counselor, and the police facilitated the issuance of court protection orders in some cases. Police caught and charged perpetrators in a number of domestic violence cases.
The police force created a Vulnerable Persons Unit designed to handle cases involving violence against women and children, which increased police responsiveness to these cases. As a result, the police reported a 24 percent increase in the reporting of sexual crimes against women and children during the first half of the year. This unit worked closely with the Family Court and the ministry's Gender Relations and Human Services Divisions.
The Gender Relations Division also ran the Women's Support Center, which provided a shelter, counseling, residential services, a 24-hour hot line, and assistance in finding employment. The center assisted 20 women and 25 children and took 206 calls during the year. Various nongovernmental organizations, such as the Saint Lucia Crisis Center and the National Organization of Women, also provided counseling, referral, educational, and empowerment services. The crisis center assisted in 87 cases of physical violence, incest, nonpayment of child support, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, custody, and visitation rights. From May to August, the center provided craft skills, small business management, and personal development training to 15 of its clients.
The law allows a judge to issue a protection order prohibiting an abuser from entering or remaining in the place where the victim is living. It also allows the judge to issue occupation orders, which remove an abuser's name from housing leases or rental agreements, revoking the right of the abuser to live in the same residence as the victim.
Prostitution is illegal, but it was a growing problem. More common than formal prostitution, many women participated in transactional sex, an informal relationship that occurred privately and not through a brothel, club, or other formal arrangement.
The criminal code prohibits sexual harassment, but it remained a problem. The Gender Relations Division continued an awareness program through which it provided training opportunities in workplaces and assisted establishments in creating policies and procedures on how to handle sexual harassment. As a result, most cases of sexual harassment were handled in the workplace rather than being prosecuted under the criminal code.
Women generally enjoyed equal rights, including in economic, family, property, and judicial matters. Women's affairs were under the jurisdiction of the Gender Relations Division, whose parent ministry was responsible for protecting women's rights in domestic violence cases and preventing discrimination against women, including ensuring equal treatment in employment.
The government was generally committed to children's rights and welfare, as indicated by its provisions for education and health care. However, there was insufficient assistance for abused or neglected children.
Education was compulsory from age five through 15; registration fees were required at most schools. The Ministry of Education reported attendance rates of 92 percent for primary school-age children and 84 percent for secondary school-age children. In 2006 the government initiated universal secondary education. Girls had equal access to education and tended to have lower drop-out rates than boys.
Government clinics provided prenatal care, immunization, child health care, and health education services. Boys and girls had equal access to medical care.
Child abuse remained a problem. Through June the Division of Human Services reported 141 cases of child abuse, consisting of 56 cases of child sexual abuse, 45 cases of physical abuse, 24 cases of neglect and abandonment, and 16 cases of psychological abuse.
Since there was no welfare system, parents of sexually abused children sometimes declined to press sexual assault charges against the abuser in exchange for financial contributions toward the welfare of children born of such abuse. Nonetheless, courts heard some child sexual abuse cases and convicted and sentenced offenders.
At year's end investigation continued in a June 2006 case in which a 14-year-old girl had been repeatedly and severely abused by her police officer father and stepmother. Neighbors contacted the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) for assistance, and the girl was placed in her aunt's custody while authorities investigated her father and stepmother.
The Division of Human Services provided a number of services to victims of child abuse, including counseling, facilitating medical intervention, finding foster care, providing family support services, and supporting the child while working with the police and attending court. The division was also involved with public outreach in schools, church organizations, and community groups. CAFRA operated a hot line for families suffering from different forms of abuse; however, there was no shelter for abused children, resulting in the return of many children to the homes in which they were abused.
Although there was little evidence of formalized child prostitution, transactional sex with minors was a common occurrence.
Trafficking in Persons
The law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, and there were reports that persons were trafficked to or within the country. Although there are laws prohibiting slavery, forced labor, forced imprisonment, or kidnapping that could be used to prosecute alleged traffickers, there were no reports of such prosecutions during the year.
There were reports of trafficking but a lack of concrete evidence. The majority of strip clubs and brothels were staffed with women from the Dominican Republic. Anecdotal evidence suggested that while many of these women illustrated characteristics of trafficking victims, such as having to surrender passports, they did not feel enslaved or coerced. Other reports indicated that a number of women were working in sex clubs against their will.
The government established a National Coalition against Trafficking in Persons consisting of the Gender Relations Division, the Human Services Division, the police, and the immigration service. Lack of funding hampered the coalition's efforts to detect and investigate cases of trafficking and to protect victims.
Persons with Disabilities
No specific legislation protects the rights of persons with disabilities or mandates provision of government services for them. The government is obliged to provide disabled access to all public buildings, and several government buildings had ramps to provide access. There was no rehabilitation facility for persons with physical disabilities, although the health ministry operated a community-based rehabilitation program in residents' homes. There were schools for the deaf and the blind up to the secondary level. There also was a school for persons with mental disabilities.
Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
There was widespread stigma and discrimination against persons infected with HIV/AIDS, although the government implemented several programs to address this issue, including a five-year program to combat HIV/AIDS. The UN Population Fund also provided support for youth-oriented HIV/AIDS prevention programs.
6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law specifies the right of workers to form or belong to trade unions under the broader rubric of the right of association. Most public sector employees and approximately 25 percent of the total work force was unionized.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, and the government generally protected this right. Collective bargaining is protected by law and was freely practiced. Unions have a right to strike, and workers exercised that right. However, the law prohibits members of the police and fire departments from striking on the grounds that these professions were "essential services." Workers in other essential services – water and sewer authority workers, electric utility workers, nurses, and doctors – must give 30 days' notice before striking.
Labor law is applicable in the export processing zones, and there were no administrative or legal impediments to union organizing or collective bargaining in those zones; however, there were no unions registered in them.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The government prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, and there were no reports that such practices occurred.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law provides for a minimum legal working age of 16 years. The minimum legal working age for industrial work is 18 years. Child labor existed to some degree in the rural areas, primarily where school-age children helped harvest bananas from family trees. Children also typically worked in urban food stalls or sold confectionery on sidewalks. However, these activities occurred on nonschool days and during festivals. The Department of Labor of the Ministry of Labor Relations, Public Service, and Cooperatives was responsible for enforcing statutes regulating child labor. Employer penalties for violating the child labor laws were $3.55 (EC$9.60) for a first offense and $8.88 (EC$24) for a second offense. There were no formal reports of violations of child labor laws.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Minimum wage regulations in effect since 1985 set wages for a limited number of occupations. The minimum monthly wage for office clerks was $111 (EC$300), for shop assistants $74 (EC$200), and for messengers $59 (EC$160). The minimum wage did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family, but most categories of workers received much higher wages based on prevailing market conditions.
The legislated workweek is 41 hours, although the common practice was to work 40 hours in five days. Special legislation covers work hours for shop assistants, agricultural workers, domestics, and persons in industrial establishments.
While occupational health and safety regulations were relatively well developed, there was only one qualified inspector for the entire country. The ministry enforced the act through threat of closure of the business if it discovered violations and the violator did not correct them. However, actual closures rarely occurred because of lack of staff and resources. Workers had the legal right to leave a dangerous workplace situation without jeopardy to continued employment.