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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2001 - Saint Lucia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 4 March 2002
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2001 - Saint Lucia , 4 March 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3c84d9868.html [accessed 15 September 2014]
Comments The report entitled "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with sections 116(d) and 502(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, and section 504 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended. The law provides that the Secretary of State shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, by February 25 "a full and complete report regarding the status of internationally recognized human rights, within the meaning of subsection (A) in countries that receive assistance under this part, and (B) in all other foreign countries which are members of the United Nations and which are not otherwise the subject of a human rights report under this Act." We have also included reports on several countries that do not fall into the categories established by these statutes and that thus are not covered by the congressional requirement.
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.

Saint Lucia is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a Governor General, appointed by the Queen. The Governor General exercises ceremonial functions, but has residual powers under the Constitution that can be used at the Governor's General's discretion. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet, which usually represent the majority party in Parliament, exercise most of the power. The bicameral Parliament consists of a 17-member House of Assembly whose members are elected by universal adult suffrage for 5-year terms and an 11-member Senate appointed by the Governor General. In generally free and fair elections on December 3, Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony's Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) retained power, winning 14 seats in the Assembly. The judiciary is generally independent.

The Royal Saint Lucia Police is the only security force and includes a small unit called the Special Services Unit (which has some paramilitary training) and a coast guard unit. They are controlled by and responsive to the Government. There were occasional allegations of abuse by the police.

The country's population is approximately 155,000. In 2000 the country had its tenth consecutive year of real economic growth. However, in 2000 gross domestic product was estimated to have grown 0.7 percent, compared with 3.5 percent in 1999. This lower growth reflected slowing in construction and in the distributive trades, which occurred despite a good year for tourism, a resurgence in banana output, and a noticeable increase in livestock and fish production. Tourism and banana exports are the country's principal sources of foreign exchange. Unemployment, which had stood at just under 20 percent at the end of 1999, decreased to 17.5 percent in 2000. However, the rate of inflation rose slightly to 3.55 percent, compared with 3.50 percent in 1999, principally as a result of higher energy costs and increased food prices.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; the authorities continued to investigate two killings committed by police in 2000. There were some allegations of physical abuse of suspects and prisoners by the police; poor prison conditions, long delays in trials and sentencing, domestic violence against women, and child abuse also are problems.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including

Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports of arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life committed by the Government or its agents.

At year's end, the Government had not concluded its investigation into the November 2000 killing by police of escaped prisoner Alfred Harding.

In October 2000, police officers in Castries shot and killed Paul Hamilton. A policeman shot him in the back as he fled from an attempted arrest, following his alleged verbal abuse of a young woman. The Government announced that an internal police investigation would be undertaken. The shooting prompted a public demonstration against police abuse of power and lawlessness in Castries, organized by the National Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights and a group called Concerned Citizens. At year's end, the Government had not completed its investigation of the killing.

Investigations still continued into three other deaths by police shooting in 1998-99.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

The Constitution specifically prohibits torture. There were no reports of torture or other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment during the year. Although no official complaints were filed, prisoners and suspects complained of physical abuse by police and prison officers.

In February the Prime Minister said that the Government wished to reform its police services and had invited a team of British experts to do an overall assessment of the structure and management of the police force. He said that the Canadian Government had provided an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to act as Deputy Commissioner of Police in order to strengthen personnel procedures. Other efforts to strengthen police services included adding 150 new officers, with 50 more in training.

Prison conditions are very poor and continued to deteriorate during the year. Overcrowding is also a problem. In December there were 450 inmates in the main prison facility, which was built to house 80 inmates. Sanitation is a particular problem, with open pit latrines for prisoners. In 1999 the Government announced construction of a new $17 million (EC$50 million) prison facility near Dennery in the eastern part of the island. The projected completion date for the new prison was September 2000; however, the new facility was not near completion at year's end, and prisoners are not expected to be transferred to it until mid-2002. In the meantime, existing prison facilities continue to deteriorate, since no new resources have been committed to them. In February the Prime Minister announced that his administration had undertaken security-related plant and infrastructure improvements for the prison and for the police. In addition to the new prison, there are also plans for constructing numerous police substations across the island.

The Government maintains a separate prison facility for women, and in December there were 11 female prisoners. Conditions in the women's facility are somewhat better than those at the men's prison. Detained juveniles are held at the same facility as women; in December there were three juveniles held there.

The Government permits prison visits by human rights monitors.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest or imprisonment and requires a court hearing 72 hours after detention, and the Government generally adheres to these provisions in practice. However, in the past, authorities have held prisoners for years on remand after charging them. There is no constitutional requirement for a speedy trial. Prisoners spend an estimated 6 months to 1 year on remand, especially for serious crimes.

The Government does not use forced exile.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respects this provision in practice.

There are two levels of courts, which are the Courts of Summary Jurisdiction (Magistrate's Courts) and the High Court. Both levels have civil and criminal authority. The lower courts accept civil claims up to about $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 can be appealed to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal. Cases also may be appealed to the Privy Council in London as the final court of appeal.

The Constitution requires public trials before an independent and impartial court and, in cases involving capital punishment, provision of legal counsel for those who cannot afford a defense attorney. In criminal cases not involving capital punishment, defendants must obtain their own legal counsel. Defendants are entitled to select their own legal counsel, are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court, and have the right of appeal. The authorities observe both constitutional and statutory requirements for fair public trials.

The court system continues to face a serious backlog of cases. In 1998 a team of justices from Australia conducted a study and issued a report with recommendations for reducing the backlog. The Government has not yet completed its review of the report's recommendations, but did hire a new director of public prosecutions in 1999 and provided him with staff to help speed up the trial process and reduce the backlog. In November the Government appointed two new magistrates. In the October-November court sitting on criminal cases, there were 18 cases pending from 1998-2000, and 7 from 2001. The average time for a trial takes 3 to 6 months in the magistrate's courts and 6 to 12 months for criminal cases.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

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

The Constitution prohibits such actions, and government authorities generally respect these prohibitions in practice. Violations are subject to effective legal sanctions.

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 respects these rights in practice. Unlike the previous year, there were no reports of censorship.

There are four major privately owned newspapers, two privately owned radio stations, one partially government-funded radio station, one government-operated television station that began operating in October, and two private television stations. These media carry a spectrum of political opinion and often are critical of the Government. The radio stations have discussion and call-in programs that allow persons to express their views. The two private television stations also cover a wide range of views. In addition, there is subscription cable television service, which provides programming from a variety of sources, such as CNN and the BBC.

The Government does not restrict access to the Internet.

The Government does not restrict academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the Government generally respects these rights in practice.

The law requires permits for public meetings and demonstrations if they are to be held in public places, such as on streets or sidewalks or in parks. The police routinely grant such permits; the rare refusal generally stems from the failure of organizers to request the permit in a timely manner, normally 48 hours before the event.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

On December 31, 2000, two men, alleged to be members of the Rastafarian movement, attacked a Sunday Mass in a Roman Catholic Church in Castries. They killed a nun, doused the priest with gasoline and set him on fire, and wounded 12 other persons. Thirteen persons were hospitalized for treatment of knife wounds and burns, including the priest. Some hours after the attack, a male worshipper died from wounds suffered in the attack. On April 19, the priest died as a result of blood clots, which may have been an existing condition prior to the attack.

Immediately after the attack, the police arrested a 20-year-old male, who was rescued from a church mob as he tried to escape the scene of the incident. A second male, age 34, was arrested a day later. The two men were believed to be Rastafarians and members of an anti-Catholic cult. Local Rastafarian leaders strongly criticized the attack. In January the authorities charged the two alleged attackers with murder and arson. In October the preliminary inquiry concluded, and the Senior Magistrate ruled that there was sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. At year's end, the men were being held on remand pending determination of a trial date.

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

The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government generally respects them in practice.

No formal government policy toward refugee or asylum requests exists. The issue of the provision of first asylum did not arise during the year. There were no reports of the forced expulsion of any persons having a claim to refugee status; however, government practice remains undefined.

There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.

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

Citizens have the right to change their government, and exercised that right in generally free and fair elections on December 3, when Prime Minister Anthony's SLP defeated the United Workers Party (UWP), led by Morella Joseph. The SLP won 14 of 17 seats and the UWP won 3. The other opposition parties – the National Alliance, led by former SLP Foreign Minister George Odlum; the STAFF (Sou Tout Apwe Fete Fini) Party, and the St. Lucia Freedom Party – did not win any seats. The SLP capitalized on the failure of the opposition forces to unite in a national coalition due to a leadership struggle between Odlum, and Sir John Compton, founder of the UWP and a former Prime Minister. Only 52 percent of those eligible voted, and although the margin of victory in several constituencies was small, the SLP won 55 percent of the popular vote.

Under the Constitution, general elections must be held at least every 5 years by secret ballot, but may be held earlier at the discretion of the government in power. Two members of the Senate are independent, appointed by the Governor General.

Parliament may be dissolved by the Governor General at any point during its 5-year term, either at the request of the Prime Minister or at the Governor General's discretion, if the House passes a vote of no confidence in the Government. Popularly elected local governments in the 10 administrative divisions (towns and villages) perform such tasks as regulation of sanitation and markets and maintenance of cemeteries and secondary roads.

There are no legal impediments to participation by women and minorities in government and politics; however, the percentage of women and minorities in government and politics does not correspond to their percentage of the population. Two of the 13 members of the Cabinet are women, as is the Governor General.

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

The Government generally does not restrict international or nongovernmental investigations of alleged violations of human rights. Although the Government officially cooperates with such investigations, observers have noted occasional reluctance by lower officials to cooperate. In some cases, it has requested international organizations to investigate possible abuses.

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

Neither the Constitution nor the law address discrimination specifically; however, government policy is nondiscriminatory in the areas of housing, jobs, education, and opportunity for advancement. There are no legal restrictions on the role of women or minorities.

Women

There is increased awareness of the seriousness of violence against women. The Government does not prosecute crimes of violence against women unless the victim presses charges. If the victim chooses for any reason not to press charges, the Government cannot bring a case. Charges must be brought under the ordinary Civil Code. A family court hears cases of domestic violence and crimes against women and children. The police force conducts some training for police officers responsible for investigating rape and other crimes against women, but there is no special unit that handles crimes against women and children. Police and courts enforce laws to protect women against abuse, although police are hesitant to intervene in domestic disputes, and many victims are reluctant to report cases of domestic violence and rape or to press charges.

The Domestic Violence Act allows a judge to issue a protection order prohibiting an abuser from entering or remaining in the place where the victim is. It also allows the judge to order that an abuser's name be removed from housing leases or rental agreements, with the effect that the abuser would no longer have the right to live in the same residence as the victim.

The Saint Lucia Crisis Center for Women in Castries and a second center in the southern town of Vieux monitor cases of physical and emotional abuse and help clients to deal with such problems as incest, nonpayment of child support, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, custody, and visitation rights. The Crisis Center has publicized the plight of battered women and has protested the rare deaths of women who were victims of domestic violence. In September the Government, with foreign assistance, built a shelter for abused persons. Although fully staffed and equipped, it had not yet opened at year's end. The Crisis Center was expected to merge its operations with the new shelter.

Women's affairs are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, Human Services, Family Affairs, and Women. The Minister is responsible for protecting women's rights in domestic violence cases and preventing discrimination against women, including ensuring equal treatment in employment.

Children

The Government gives a high priority to improving educational opportunities and health care for children. Education is free and compulsory from age 5 through 15. However, only about one-third of primary school children continue on to secondary schools, and the drop out rate from primary to secondary school is higher for boys than for girls. Government clinics provide prenatal care, immunization, child health care, and health education services.

The Saint Lucia Crisis Center reported that the incidence of child abuse remains high.

A broad legal framework exists for the protection of children through the Criminal Code, the Children and Young Persons Act, the Family Court Act, the Domestic Violence Act, and the Attachment of Earnings Act. Although the Government adopted a national plan of action in 1991 for the survival, protection, and development of children, it has not fulfilled this program by implementing effective programs. There are no specific laws enacted to cover foster care, adoptions, or child welfare social services.

Persons With Disabilities

No specific legislation protects the rights of persons with disabilities, nor mandates provision of access to buildings or government services for them. There is no rehabilitation facility for persons with physical disabilities, although the Health Ministry operates a community-based rehabilitation program in residents' homes. There are schools for the deaf and for the blind up to the secondary level. There is also a school for persons with mental disabilities.

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. Most public sector employees are unionized; about 20 percent of the total work force is unionized. Unions are independent of government and are free to choose their own representatives in often vigorously contested elections. There are no restrictions on the formation of national labor federations. Several of the major unions belong to an umbrella grouping called the Industrial Solidarity Pact.

Strikes in both the public and private sectors are legal, but there are many avenues through collective bargaining agreements and government procedures that may preclude a strike. The law prohibits members of the police and fire departments from striking. Other "essential services" workers – water and sewer authority workers, electric utility workers, nurses, and doctors – must give 30 days' notice before striking.

Unions are free to affiliate with international organizations, and some have done so.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Unions have the legal right to engage in collective bargaining, and they fully exercise this right in practice. The Registration of Trade Unions and Employer Organizations Act is viewed widely as prounion, and since it entered into effect in January 2000, it has resulted in increased organizational activity by unions. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers, and there are effective mechanisms for resolving complaints. It also requires that employers reinstate workers fired for union activities.

Labor law is applicable in the export processing zones (EPZ's), and there are no administrative or legal impediments to union organizing or collective bargaining in those zones. Although many firms resist union efforts to organize in the EPZ's, the new law appeared to have a positive influence on organizing efforts.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Government prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and it is not known to occur. While there is no specific prohibition of forced or bonded labor by children, there were no reports of such practices.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

Minors are protected legally from economic exploitation by several legislative acts, including the Children and Young Persons Act, which provides for a minimum legal working age of 14 years. The minimum legal working age for industrial work is 18 years. Child labor exists to some degree in the rural areas, primarily where larger, stronger, school-age children help harvest family banana trees. Children also typically work in urban food stalls or sell confectionery on sidewalks. However, these activities occur on nonschool days and during festivals. The Department of Labor of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Home Affairs, and Labor is responsible for enforcing statutes regulating child labor. Penalties for violating child labor laws include fines up to $75 (EC$200) and prison terms up to 3 months. There were no formal reports of violations of child labor laws. In December 2000, the Government ratified the International Labor Organization's Convention 182 on elimination of the worst forms of child labor. The Government does not prohibit specifically forced and bonded labor by children, but such practices are not known to occur (see Section 6.c.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Wages Regulations (Clerks) Orders, in effect since 1985, set out minimum wage rates only for clerks. These office workers receive a legislated minimum wage 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 some categories of workers receive more than the legal minimum for clerks, which is used only as a guide for setting pay for other professions.

There is no legislated workweek, although the common practice is to work 40 hours in 5 days. Special legislation covers hours that shop assistants, agricultural workers, domestics, and persons in industrial establishments may work.

Occupational health and safety regulations are relatively well developed; however, there is only one qualified inspector for the entire country. Therefore, Ministry of Labor inspections of health and safety conditions at places of employment (under the Employee's Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1985) are infrequent, at best. The Ministry enforces the act through threat of closure of the business if it discovers violations and the violator does not correct them. However, actual closures rarely occur because of lack of staff and resources. Workers are free to leave a dangerous workplace situation without jeopardy to continued employment.

f. Trafficking in Persons

There are no laws that specifically address trafficking in persons. There were no reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country.

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