Barbados is a parliamentary democracy with a population of approximately 278,000. In the 2003 parliamentary elections, which were considered generally free and fair, citizens returned the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to a third successive term in office over the opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP). The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
Although the government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, problems included excessive use of force by police, poor prison conditions, and societal violence against women and children.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
The government or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings; however, police shot and killed three suspects in separate altercations during the year. Authorities had not made any determination regarding possible culpability in these killings by year's end.
In June police shot and killed an unidentified man who reportedly had stabbed a police officer. In August a media report stated that police returned fire after being shot at while intercepting a suspicious-looking vehicle, killing one unidentified man and injuring two others. In October the media reported that police shot and killed Kevin Ellis, 32, after a confrontation with officers. Authorities planned to conduct inquests into the killings but had not commenced at year's end.
In July the authorities completed the inquest into the fatal police shooting of convicted murderer and frequent escapee Winston Hall in 2004, and the coroner ruled the killing lawful.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
While the constitution specifically prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment, there were reports that police sometimes used excessive force. The majority of complaints against the police alleged unprofessional conduct and beating or assault. Police were occasionally accused of beating suspects to obtain confessions, and suspects often recanted their confessions during their trial. There were many cases where the only evidence against the accused was a confession.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions remained very poor. Prisoners continued to be held in the temporary prison facility constructed at Harrison Point after the March 2005 riots destroyed Glendairy Prison. A new permanent prison, designed to meet modern international standards, was under construction with completion slated for August 2007.
In March media reports attributed the motive behind the Glendairy Prison fire to widespread incidents of rape within the prison and alleged that rape was also prevalent in the temporary facility in Harrison Point. After his release and deportation, a British citizen incarcerated at Glendairy at the time of the riot wrote several articles highlighting prison conditions at both facilities. In addition to describing the circumstances that led to the Glendairy Prison fire, he also reported on conditions at the temporary facility in Harrison Point. His account alleged unchecked gang violence, indifference of guards to medical needs, cramped quarters, and unsanitary conditions.
In April authorities charged Gerald Orland Clarke with killing fellow inmate Junior "Nook Nook" Boyce during the 2005 riot. The commission investigating the Glendairy Prison fire charged 26 other men with arson in June.
Conditions and services at the temporary prison remained inadequate. Press reports included complaints by prisoners and their families about poor conditions, including unsanitary cells, inedible food, and unclean drinking water. Family members complained that they were denied the opportunity to visit or communicate with their relatives in prison. Attorneys also complained that they were denied access to their clients held at Harrison Point. The superintendent of prisons responded that the emergency situation necessitated temporary restrictions on visits but that attorneys were allowed to visit prisoners.
While the government normally permitted prison visits by independent human rights monitors, no such visits were known to have taken place during the year at the Harrison Point facility.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) numbered 1,394--including 110 special constables--and is responsible for internal law enforcement. While still a male-dominated profession, the number of female recruits to the RBPF was on the rise. The small Barbados Defence Force (BDF) protects national security and may be called upon to maintain public order in times of crisis, emergency, or other specific need. The RBPF reports to the minister of home affairs, and the BDF reports to the minister of defense and security. Although the police largely were unarmed, special RBPF foot patrols in high crime areas carried firearms in response to public concern. An armed special rapid response unit continued to operate. The law provides that the police can request the BDF to assist them as needed with special joint patrols.
The Office of Professional Responsibility, headed by a superintendent, handled complaints of inappropriate police conduct. In 2004 an independent Police Complaints Authority (PCA) was established to review complaints against the police. In 2005 the PCA's chairman resigned and was not replaced; reportedly no complaints were ever submitted to the PCA.
Arrest and Detention
Police are authorized to arrest persons suspected of criminal activity; a warrant is typically required. The constitution permits detainees to be held without charge for up to five days; however, once charged, detainees must be brought before a court without unnecessary delay. There is a functioning bail system. Criminal detainees were given prompt access to counsel and were advised of that right immediately after arrest. Access to family members generally was permitted; however, some families complained that they did not receive regular access at the temporary facility in Harrison Point. Authorities confirmed this, asserting that the location and security provisions at the temporary facility limited accessibility.
Police procedures provide that, except when expressly permitted by a senior divisional officer to do otherwise, the police may question suspects, and other persons they hold, only at a police station. An officer must visit detainees at least once every three hours to inquire about the detainees' condition. After 24 hours the detaining authority must submit a written report to the deputy commissioner. The authorities must approve and record all movements of detainees between stations.
There were 269 prisoners in pretrial detention at year's end.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected this provision in practice.
The judiciary includes the courts of first instance, or magistrate's courts, and the Supreme Court of Judicature, which consists of the High Court and the Court of Appeals. The new Caribbean Court of Justice is the final court of appeal.
The constitution provides that persons charged with criminal offenses be given a fair public hearing without unnecessary delay by an independent and impartial court. Although the government generally respected this right in practice, some accused persons spent years in prison awaiting trial. At least one person, Clyde Anderson Grazettes, has been held on remand in pretrial detention over four years. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner. The government provided free legal aid to the indigent in family matters, child support, serious criminal cases such as rape or murder, and all cases involving minors. Defendants are allowed to confront and question witnesses and present evidence on their own behalf. Defendants and their attorneys have access to government-held evidence relevant to their case. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and have the right of appeal.
The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Magistrate's courts have both civil and criminal jurisdiction, but the civil judicial system experienced heavy backlogs. Citizens can seek redress for human rights or other abuses through the civil system.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice.
Section 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.
The government restricted the receipt and importation of foreign publications deemed to be pornographic.
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chatrooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail.
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.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
In August the Barbados Advocate newspaper published an op-ed by David "Joey" Harper, chairman of the Child Care Board and chief executive officer for the BLP, which was offensive to the small local Jewish community, members of which quickly registered objections to the article. The newspaper printed an apology a day later, taking responsibility for inadvertently allowing the piece to run, while dissociating itself from the views expressed by the author.
For more detailed information, see the 2006 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The constitution provides for these rights, and the government generally respected them in practice.
The law prohibits forced exile, and it was not used.
Protection of Refugees
The laws do not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice the government provided protection against refoulement, the return of persons to a country where they feared persecution. The government did not grant refugee status or asylum during the year.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The constitution provides citizens 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 the 2003 elections, the BLP, led by Prime Minister Owen Arthur, won its third parliamentary election, returning to office with a 23 to 7 seat majority over the DLP.
There were no restrictions on the political opposition. Individuals and parties were free to declare their candidacy and stand for election. In January the leader of the opposition DLP, Clyde Mascoll, changed parties, joining the ruling BLP.
Approximately one-third of cabinet members were women, including the deputy prime minister, who served concurrently as the minister of economic affairs and development. There were four women and no minorities in the 30-seat House of Assembly. There were seven women and three minorities in the 21-member Senate.
Government Corruption and Transparency
There were no reports of government corruption during the year, and the public perception of corruption in government was reportedly low.
There was no law providing citizens access to information held by the government. While access to information was provided on government Web sites, responses to requests for specific government information by citizens and other interested parties often were slow.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were cooperative and responsive to their views.
Section 5 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution provides for equal treatment regardless of race, origin, political opinion, color, creed, or sex, and the government effectively enforced these provisions.
Violence and abuse against women continued to be significant social problems. The law prohibits domestic violence, provides protection to all members of the family, including men and children, and applies equally to marriages and to common-law relationships. Penalties depend on the severity of the charges and range from a fine for first-time offenders (unless the injury is serious) up to the death penalty for a killing. Victims may request restraining orders, which the courts often issued. The courts can sentence an offender to jail for breaching such an order. The police have a victim support unit, made up of civilian volunteers, which offered assistance primarily to female victims of violent crimes.
Spousal abuse remained a problem during the year, despite legal protections against spousal rape for women holding a court-issued divorce decree, separation order, or nonmolestation order. The law prohibits rape, and the maximum penalty for it is life imprisonment.
There were public and private counseling services for victims of domestic violence, rape, and child abuse. The Business and Professional Women's Club operated a crisis center staffed by trained counselors and provided legal and medical referral services. The government funded a shelter for battered women, operated by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which accommodated up to 20 women and children. The shelter offered the services of trained psychological counselors to victims of domestic violence.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs cited a lack of specific information and an appropriate mechanism for collecting and evaluating data on incidents of domestic violence as the major impediments to tackling gender-based violence.
Prostitution is illegal, but it remained a problem, fueled by poverty and tourism. The media reported on prostitution, usually in the context of its role in the upcoming Cricket World Cup in 2007 and concern over HIV/AIDS. There is no statute specifically prohibiting sexual tourism, and no statistics on it, but anecdotal evidence suggested that it occurred.
The law does not deal with sexual harassment, and sexual harassment in the workplace was a problem, but no statistics were available. An advocacy group called the Coalition on Sexual Harassment worked with the Department of Labor, among others, to develop legislation on this issue. Media reports often indicated that women were afraid to report sexual harassment because they feared retribution in the workplace.
The Office of Gender Affairs in the Ministry of Social Transformation worked to ensure the rights of women. Women have equal property rights, including in a divorce settlement. Women actively participated in all aspects of national life and were well represented at all levels of the public and private sectors. A Poverty Eradication Fund focused on encouraging entrepreneurial activities to increase employment for women and youth. The government reported that the number of female applicants for the police force, as well as for other jobs traditionally held by men, continued to increase. According to the Barbados Economic Society, unemployment among women fell over the past two decades and was on course to dip below the rate for men for the first time, in contrast with the figures for 1987, when the female unemployment rate was 10 percentage points higher than that for men.
The government was committed to children's human rights and welfare, although violence and abuse against children remained serious problems.
Education was free, compulsory, and universal until the age of 16. The government estimated that 98 percent of children between the ages of five and 16 attended school. The highest educational level achieved by most children was secondary school.
The National Health Insurance Scheme provided children with free medical and dental services for most medical conditions.
The Child Care Board has a mandate for the care and protection of children, which involved investigating day care centers and cases of child abuse or child labor, and providing counseling services, residential placement, and foster care. The Welfare Department offered counseling on a broad range of family-related issues, and the Child Care Board conducted counseling for child abuse victims.
Trafficking in Persons
The constitution and laws do not specifically prohibit trafficking in persons. Although laws against slavery, forced labor or other crimes could be applied, no trafficking cases were prosecuted. There were reports that persons were trafficked to the country.
A 2005 assessment by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) stated that persons were trafficked both to work as prostitutes and as domestic workers. Persons also reportedly were trafficked to work in the construction and garment industries, where they were subject to low wages and false contracts. The IOM noted that in cases where trafficking may have occurred, the government typically deported the persons suspected of being trafficked and failed to investigate or prosecute the alleged traffickers. The government has no dedicated facilities to assist victims and does not provide funding to antitrafficking NGOs.
In May authorities filed criminal charges against an India-based construction company alleged to have trafficked 14 laborers who protested at a construction project in November 2005. The government immediately deported the workers and subsequently charged the foreign company with violating the Immigration Act.
On December 8, authorities charged racecar driver Geoffrey Ullyett with living off the proceeds of prostitution between October 23 and December 4. The alleged prostitutes were two Ukrainians who said that Ullyett abused them and withheld their passports. At year's end the case was still pending, but prosecutors were hampered because key witnesses were no longer in the country.
Although prostitution is illegal, a number of brothels with women from Guyana, the Dominican Republic, and other Caribbean islands operated in the country. The police and immigration officers periodically raided brothels and deported women found working illegally. There were anecdotal reports of government officials involved in labor and sex trafficking.
Through August the Immigration Department deported 68 persons for various immigration violations, eight of whom were deported for prostitution. Trafficking victims were often treated as criminals and deported.
In May the government's Bureau of Gender Affairs, in conjunction with the IOM, sponsored a two-day capacity-building workshop on trafficking in persons to heighten awareness about potential human trafficking. Although there were no reliable statistics on trafficking, several media articles addressed the issue and highlighted possible instances of trafficking as well as the various means through which persons were trafficked.
Persons with Disabilities
There are no laws that specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, or the provision of other state services, other than constitutional provisions asserting equality for all. In practice persons with disabilities faced some discrimination. The Ministry of Social Transformation operated a Disabilities Unit to address the concerns of persons with disabilities, but parents complained of added fees and transport difficulties for children with disabilities at public schools.
In April the prime minister officially opened Harambee House, a resource and community center specifically for persons with disabilities. Although in April 2005 the cabinet established a National Advisory Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, whose mandate was to coordinate government efforts to fully integrate persons with disabilities into society, the committee apparently never met.
While there is no legislation mandating provision of accessibility to public thoroughfares or public or private buildings, the Town and Country Planning Department set provisions for all public buildings to include accessibility to persons with disabilities. As a result, the majority of new buildings had ramps, reserved parking, and special sanitary facilities for such persons.
Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
There are no laws that prohibit discrimination against a person on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing, education, or health care. Although no statistics were available, anecdotal evidence suggested that societal discrimination against homosexuals occurred.
The government initiated programs designed to discourage discrimination against HIV/AIDS-infected persons and others living with them. The International Labor Organization operated a three-year program to reduce risk behavior among targeted workers and to reduce employment-related discrimination among persons with HIV/AIDS. Seven enterprises adopted workplace policies, and stakeholders met to discuss developing a national strategic plan on HIV/AIDS.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Workers freely exercised their right to form and belong to trade unions. Approximately 25-30 percent of the 120,000-person workforce was unionized; unionized workers were concentrated in key sectors such as transportation, government, and agriculture. There were two major unions, one in the public sector and the other focused on the private sector; with no competition between them, the unions wielded significant influence.
Although employers were under no legal obligation to recognize unions under the law, most did so when a significant percentage of their employees expressed a desire to be represented by a registered union. While there is no specific law that prohibits discrimination against union activity, the courts provide a method of redress for employees who allege wrongful dismissal. The courts commonly awarded monetary compensation but rarely ordered reemployment.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Workers exercised the legal right to organize and bargain collectively. Since 1993 a series of negotiated protocols contained provisions for increases in basic wages and increases based on productivity. Government, private sector, and labor representatives signed a fifth such protocol in May 2005.
There are no export processing zones.
The law provides for the right to strike, and workers exercised this right in practice. All private and public sector employees are permitted to strike, but essential workers may strike only under certain circumstances and after following prescribed procedures.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The constitution 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 working age of 16, and this provision generally was observed in practice. Compulsory primary and secondary education policies reinforced minimum age requirements (see section 5). The Labor Department had a small cadre of labor inspectors who conducted spot investigations of enterprises and checked records to verify compliance with the law. These inspectors may take legal action against an employer who is found to have underage workers.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The law provides for and the authorities established minimum wage rates for specified categories of workers. The categories of workers with a formally regulated minimum wage are household domestics and shop assistants. The minimum wage for these employees was $2.50 (BDS$5) per hour, which provided a decent standard of living for a worker and family; most employees earned more than the minimum wage. The Labor Department within the Ministry of Labor and Social Security was charged with enforcing the minimum wage. There were occasional press reports alleging that migrant workers received less than the minimum wage.
The standard legal workweek is 40 hours in five days, and the law requires overtime payment for hours worked in excess. The law prescribes that all overtime must be voluntary.
During the year the Labor Department consulted extensively with unions and employers' organizations regarding core regulations to implement the 2005 Occupational Safety and Health at Work Act. The draft regulations cover general duties, drinking water, visual display units and workstations, washing facilities, sanitary conditions, personal protective equipment, and noise. The Labor Department enforced other health and safety standards and followed up to ensure that management corrected problems cited. The law requires that in certain sectors firms employing more than 50 workers create a safety committee that could challenge the decisions of management concerning the occupational safety and health environment. Trade union monitors identified safety problems for government factory inspectors to ensure the enforcement of safety and health regulations and effective correction by management. The Labor Department's Inspections Unit conducted several routine annual inspections of government-operated corporations and manufacturing plants. Workers had the right to remove themselves from dangerous or hazardous job situations without jeopardizing their continued employment.