Saint Lucia is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy with a population of approximately 168,000. In generally free and fair elections on December 11, 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. 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
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
Although the government or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings, security forces killed three persons during the year.
On September 15, an officer shot twice and killed 20-year-old Troy Jn Jacques. According to the press, eyewitnesses claimed that Jn Jacques posed no threat to the police but was shot deliberately and with intent to kill. The official police report, however, claimed that police were attempting to arrest Jn Jacques for two burglaries that happened previously that day and that Jn Jacques pulled a knife on the police while resisting arrest. At year's end the police investigation was complete, and the case was before the director of public prosecutions (DPP).
On October 21, two plain-clothes police shot at a commuter bus with shotguns, killing 70-year-old Maurison Flavius and wounding two other passengers. The police officers tried to flag down the bus and opened fire when the bus did not stop. According to eyewitnesses, the driver and passengers did not know the armed men were police officers. The police explained that the officers involved were responding to information about a bus with an armed passenger in possession of illegal drugs. On November 16, authorities charged the officer who appeared to have caused the fatality with manslaughter by recklessness. The other officers involved remained on administrative leave while the police continued the investigation.
On November 17, police shot and killed escaped convict Perry Jules in a gun battle. At year's end the investigation was complete, and the case was before the DPP.
At year's end the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) was still investigating all four police killings that occurred in 2005.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law 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, 96 of which were for assault, 28 for threats or harassment, 18 for abuse of authority, 20 for negligence, and eight for damaging property.
On January 3, authorities arrested a police officer and charged him with wounding a member of his community. A court later convicted the officer.
On May 13, authorities arrested an officer and charged him with two counts of causing harm, two counts of uttering threatening words, two counts of unlawful assault, and two counts of assault. At year's end this case was still before the court.
On September 23, a police officer shot and wounded a 17-year-old boy who was causing a disturbance. At year's end the case was still under investigation.
Of the 146 complaints made in 2005, only 26 were still under investigation at year's end. Most of the completed investigations were dropped by the complainants or the police department. Where necessary, the police followed internal disciplinary procedures.
At year's end the CID was still investigating a July 2005 incident in which a police officer shot Brian Felix during an argument.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions generally met minimum international standards at the three-year-old Bordelais Correctional Facility, which had a capacity of 500 prisoners and held approximately that number. There were complaints regarding the treatment of prisoners at the facility.
On January 30, the Visiting Justices, an independent investigative body appointed by the government to oversee and represent inmates in matters of allegations, concluded an investigation into the September 2005 beating of Wilson Exhale. According to the report, the police officer who beat Exhale was acting in self-defense in response to a lashing out by Exhale.
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. It held 30 juveniles between 12 and 18 years of age. Of these, 11 were housed for criminal offenses, including four for murder, and 18 for protection from domestic problems. 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, who visited early in 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 932 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. The police commissioner continued a community policing initiative to increase professionalism, prevent crime, and address customer service issues. 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.
In October the government contracted 10 police officers from the United Kingdom to enhance intelligence capacity, develop research and development capability, and improve management systems and processes.
There were rumors of corruption in the police force but little evidence (see section 3).
Arrest and Detention
The law 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 nearly 500 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 law 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 authority. 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 law provides for public trials, including trial by jury, before an independent and impartial court and, in cases involving capital punishment, provision of legal counsel for those who cannot afford a defense attorney. While there was no requirement for a speedy trial, the government used the magistrate's court located in the prison to reduce processing time for court hearings after detention. In criminal cases not involving capital punishment, defendants must obtain their own legal counsel. 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. Authorities observed both constitutional and statutory requirements for fair public trials.
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 law 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 law 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.
On November 7, parliament repealed a section of the criminal code commonly referred to as the "spreading false news" clause. According to then-prime minister Kenny Anthony, even those who supported the law accepted that it was difficult to obtain a prosecution under it.
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 electronic 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 law provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The law provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.
Rastafarians complained that the use of marijuana, an aspect of their religious ritual, was prohibited.
In April authorities remanded to custody a person accused of attempting to kill the Eastern Caribbean's Roman Catholic archbishop. The accused was to be sent for psychological evaluation before being formally charged. Government officials denounced the attack as reprehensible and called for tolerance among religious groups.
Leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Muslim leaders reported difficulties receiving official government recognition while the government was revising its policies on registration of churches. The issue was still pending at year's end.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Some evangelicals allegedly criticized Catholics and mainline Protestants for adherence to "slave religions" and for not accepting a literal interpretation of the Bible. Muslim leaders claimed that some recent converts to Islam hid their new religion from non-Muslim friends and family to avoid criticism and discrimination. Rastafarians complained of widespread discrimination, especially in hiring and in schools.
There were no other reports of societal abuses or discrimination, including anti-Semitism. There was no organized Jewish community.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2006 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The law 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 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 they feared persecution, but did not routinely grant refugee status or asylum.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The law 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
On December 11, Sir John Compton's UWP defeated Kenny Anthony's SLP by winning 11 of 17 seats and 52 percent of the popular vote. According to electoral observer missions from both the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community, the elections were generally considered free and fair.
Four women competed in the elections in a field of 38 candidates for 17 seats, but none were elected to the House of Assembly. The appointed speaker of the house was a woman. There were two women in the 11-member appointed Senate, one of whom served as president of the Senate. Of the 15 members of the cabinet, one was a woman, as was the governor general.
Government Corruption and Transparency
The public perception of corruption in government was reportedly low, although there was a belief that obtaining public sector jobs was linked to political ties and cronyism.
There were rumors of corruption in the police force, but little evidence. The strongest statement on police corruption came from former minister of home affairs and internal security Velon John. In an address to parliament on October 24, John dismissed the police force as absolutely corrupt, irreversibly undisciplined, and altogether useless.
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.
Section 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. Although the government officially cooperated with such investigations, observers noted occasional reluctance by government officials to cooperate, as well as occasional retaliatory harassment following critiques of the government.
Section 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.
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 filed 460 cases by year's end. The Ministry of Health, Human Services, Family Affairs, 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.
On January 12, Feliciana Charles and her daughter Maquina Charles were killed by Feliciana's common-law husband following a heated argument. On July 8, Sherry Ann Mayers was stabbed several times and killed by her male companion. The murder was witnessed by Mayers' six-year-old son. Both perpetrators were awaiting trial at year's end.
On May 15, Anthony Beaubrun was charged with abusing his common- law wife by punching her several times in the face on the steps of a probation office on April 18. The court sentenced him to pay $100 (EC$250) to his common-law wife and one year's probation. The magistrate also sentenced Beaubrun to attend anger management sessions, to abstain from alcohol during probation, and said that he faced two months in prison if he broke his probation.
The ministry's 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 37 women and 129 children during the year. One of the greatest successes of the center was its ability to keep its location a secret, enhancing the security of the women at the center. The center also engaged in an active community outreach program that included visits to schools, health centers, and community centers. 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 approximately 100 cases of physical violence, incest, nonpayment of child support, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, custody, and visitation rights.
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 order 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. Of the 460 cases of domestic violence lodged with the family court during the year, 316 resulted in protection orders and 25 resulted in occupation orders.
Rape, including spousal rape, is a crime punishable by 14 years' to life imprisonment. Police and courts enforced laws to protect women against abuse, although police were hesitant to intervene in domestic disputes, and many victims were reluctant to report cases of domestic violence and rape or to press charges.
The police force conducted some training for police officers responsible for investigating rape and other crimes against women. A special police unit handled domestic violence, and its officers, who included women, worked closely with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Gender Relations Division in the Ministry of Health, Human Services, Family Affairs, and Gender Relations.
Prostitution is illegal, but it was a growing problem. Although there was little evidence, various organizations reported rumors of trafficking tied to prostitution. In response, the government began training sessions and established a network of assistance for victims (see section 5, Trafficking).
Sexual harassment is prohibited under the criminal code; however, 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 enjoy equal rights, including in economic, family, property, and judicial matters. Women's affairs were under the jurisdiction of the Gender Relations Division of the Ministry of Health, Human Services, Family Affairs, and Gender Relations. The ministry was responsible for protecting women's rights in domestic violence cases and preventing discrimination against women, including ensuring equal treatment in employment. In May the government fulfilled its first five reporting obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
The government gave high priority to improving educational opportunities and health care for children.
Education was compulsory from age five through 15; registration fees were required. The Ministry of Education reported attendance rates of 92 percent for primary school-age children and 86 percent for secondary school-age children. In September the government initiated universal secondary education, upgrading senior primary schools to secondary schools and starting construction on two additional secondary schools.
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. During the year the Division of Human Services of the Ministry of Health, Human Services, Family Affairs, and Gender Relations reported 83 cases of child sexual abuse, 81 cases of physical abuse, 22 cases of psychological abuse, and 83 cases of neglect and abandonment, all in the Castries office alone (the division has two other regional offices). The media criticized the government for failing to respond sufficiently to reports of sexual abuse of children, including alleged cases of incest. As 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.
On January 27, a court sentenced Gerald Joseph to five years in prison for indecent assault of a 12-year-old girl in 2003. On June 13, a judge convicted George Labadee on four counts of incest for multiple incidents of forceful intercourse with his daughter in 2003. The court sentenced him to 15 years' imprisonment, but he appealed his case.
On June 21, media reported that a 14-year-old girl had been repeatedly and severely abused by her police officer father and stepmother. Abuse of the child was both physical and verbal and included such humiliation as being forced to urinate in the yard rather than in the house. Neighbors became involved when the child was found running down the street with a badly bruised and bleeding back. They contacted the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) for assistance and then took the child to the police for protection. As soon as the police realized she was the daughter of a police officer, they returned her to her father, an action that outraged the neighbors because of the number of times they witnessed abuse. With CAFRA's assistance, the girl was placed in her aunt's custody while her father and stepmother were investigated. The case was still under investigation at year's end.
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. Furthermore, the division was involved with public outreach in schools, church organizations, and community groups. In November the division ran a foster care and adoption awareness campaign simultaneously with the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association's "Good Touch, Bad Touch - Know the Difference" sexual abuse awareness campaign.
CAFRA also was involved with child abuse issues. In July CAFRA began a hot line for families suffering from different forms of abuse. In October CAFRA held a counseling skills workshop for the hot line volunteers. Through the hot line, CAFRA learned of various cases of sexual abuse that were never reported to the police. For example, a mother called in to report that her daughter's 82-year-old grandfather was molesting her nine-year-old daughter. Another mother called to report that her children were first sexually abused by their father, and when she confided in her boyfriend's brother for help, he began abusing the children as well.
Trafficking in Persons
The law does not prohibit trafficking in persons, and there were reports that persons were trafficked to, from, 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.
The government acknowledged that, despite a lack of documented cases of trafficking, surveys and media reports indicated that it occurred. The country had a growing sex tourism industry with a number of strip clubs and brothels, many of which were staffed by women from the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean islands.
In October the Gender Affairs Division participated with the International Organization for Migration in training on identifying and assisting trafficking victims in preparation for Cricket World Cup, which will be held in the Caribbean in 2007.
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 for the blind up to the secondary level. There also was a school for persons with mental disabilities.
In August 2005 14-year-old Kevin Jn Baptiste took the Common Entrance exam for secondary school but was unable to attend his assigned school because it could not accommodate his wheelchair. Baptiste and his mother spent months trying to find a way for him to attend school, and he was allowed to retake the Common Entrance exam on August 15. He began classes at a different school that month but needed help from students to climb the stairs to his classes. In September the school principal declared that the school could no longer accommodate Baptiste. Reports conflicted as to whether his expulsion was due to the strain on the school from assisting with Baptiste's mobility or if it was related to alleged behavioral problems.
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.
Section 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 these zones.
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 larger, stronger, 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. In June the government named members of the commission responsible for setting a minimum wage, but it had not finished its work by year's end.
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 were only two qualified inspectors 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.