Seychelles is a multiparty republic of approximately 81,000 citizens. In July 2006 President James Michel was elected in a process deemed credible by international observers. The president and the Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF) dominated the country through a pervasive system of political patronage and control over government jobs, contracts, and resources. The balance of power between the ruling SPPF and the opposition Seychelles National Party remained the same after the May 2007 National Assembly elections. The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, the following human rights problems were reported: prolonged pretrial detention; abuse of detainees; an inefficient and politically influenced court system; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, and assembly; official corruption; violence against women and children; violations and restrictions on labor rights; and discrimination against foreign workers.
Supporting the country's own efforts to increase democratic transparency and accountability is a U.S. government priority. The United States seeks to capitalize on recent cooperation between the government and the opposition by supporting efforts to strengthen civil society, increase freedoms of speech and press, improve government transparency, and build capacity of local human rights organizations.
The United States and local civil society groups monitored the general elections in 2007. The U.S. government is seeking to maintain and expand this positive working relationship with the government, opposition, and civil society in an effort to facilitate further dialogue among key actors. Towards that end, the United States will sponsor a series of democracy and good governance programs for government officials, the media, and civil society through public outreach. In June 2007, during a U.S.-sponsored two-week seminar on maritime security, a U.S. speaker discussed the role of the military and law enforcement in a democratic society with the country's security forces. In a similar fashion,in 2007 the United States sponsored a military officer to attend the Center for Civil-Military Relations at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. U.S. programs will work directly with local institutions, such as the Liaison Unit for NGOs (LUNGOS) to strengthen civil society organizations and advance democracy. In 2008 the U.S. government will sponsor a training workshop on women's rights and the African Charter on Human Rights, as well as an awareness campaign on the rights of HIV/AIDS patients.
So that local civil society becomes a stronger partner in development and a more robust source of oversight and support to social institutions, in April 2007 the United States sponsored a one-day workshop on conflict resolution and consensus-building for 40 participants representing NGOs working for the welfare of women and children, human rights promotion, and HIV/AIDS. The U.S. government will maintain its diplomatic efforts to ensure that parliament works in closer collaboration with NGOs and establishes a formal recognition of a working relationship with civil society. In December 2007 U.S. officials met with the LUNGOS to propose support for their new initiative to produce a partnership agreement between LUNGOS and the government to broaden civil society engagement in policy dialogue and good governance programs. Likewise, in subsequent meetings with members of parliament, U.S. officials solicited their cooperation in this initiative.
The United States actively discusses with the government the importance of media and press freedoms. The U.S. government's sustained dialogue with opposition party reporters has resulted in a greater awareness and reporting on human rights. As a result of this increased awareness, U.S. officials noted a decrease in the number of human rights abuse cases among detainees at the end of 2007.