Antigua and Barbuda

Executive Summary

Antigua and Barbuda is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. The prime minister is the head of government and Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, represented by a governor general. The ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party won a majority of seats in 2018 parliamentary elections that were deemed free and fair.

Security forces consist of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, the prison guard service, immigration officers, airport and port security personnel, the Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force, and the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy. National security, including police and prison guards, falls under the supervision of the attorney general, who is also the minister of legal affairs, public safety, and labor. Immigration falls under the minister of foreign affairs, international trade, and immigration. The Ministry of Finance is responsible for money-laundering policy. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were no reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

Significant human rights issues included: serious acts of official corruption and existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between men, although the laws were not enforced.

The government took steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish those who committed human rights abuses. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh due to inadequate sanitary conditions and overcrowding.

Physical Conditions: The country’s sole prison was built in 1735 to hold 150 prisoners but as of August held 269. According to a nongovernmental organization (NGO) representative, overcrowding created serious COVID-19 infection risks for the prisoners and staff. The government did not provide information regarding numbers of COVID-19 infections in the prison.

One mistreatment report was submitted stating that prison guards beat a former police officer convicted of bribery. An investigation was underway at year’s end.

Administration: The Superintendent of Prisons reviewed mistreatment reports and forwarded them to a Prison Visiting Committee for further investigation.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, but no visits occurred during the year.

Improvements: The government reported that the kitchen and chapel were demolished and a temporary kitchen was installed.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law permits police to arrest a person without a warrant, based on a suspicion of criminal activity. Police must bring detainees before a court within 48 hours of arrest or detention, or file a motion requesting an extension. The law stipulates prisoners must be released if these time limits are not met. There is a functioning bail system, but a person charged with murder cannot obtain bail. The government pays for the cost of a lawyer if a defendant is unable to afford one.

Pretrial Detention: Some prisoners on remand remained in detention for up to four years before their cases came to trial, according to the director of the Office of Public Prosecutions in 2019. The government stated there was no case backlog, but anecdotal media reports indicated the backlog remained a serious problem.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial by jury, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly of the charges, the right to a timely trial, and to be present at their trial. Defendants have the right to timely access to an attorney of their choice. The government provides legal assistance at public expense to persons without the means to retain a private attorney, but only in capital cases. Defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, and free assistance of an interpreter if needed. They have the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and to present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Defendants have the right to appeal.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies through domestic courts for human rights violations. They may apply to the High Court for redress of alleged violations of their constitutional rights. They may appeal adverse domestic decisions to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press, on a somewhat limited basis.

Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: There were no privately owned print media. There were claims that the government was hostile to independent broadcast media outlets and did not provide them equal access to government officials. Observers claimed that the government and the prime minister in particular owned media outlets that were used exclusively to disseminate government information. Prime Minister Browne claimed that although he was the founder of Pointe FM radio, he was no longer a shareholder; however, he did not reveal the ownership. Senior government officials routinely refused to grant interviews to media outlets that were critical of the ruling party and instead used government media exclusively.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees and asylum seekers.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. The government handles asylum requests on an ad hoc basis.

g. Stateless Persons

Not applicable.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In the 2018 elections the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party won 15 of 17 seats in the House of Representatives, and Gaston Browne was subsequently named prime minister. The Caribbean Community Observation Mission and a Commonwealth Observer Group monitored the election. In their initial report, monitors noted the electoral boundaries had seen only minor adjustments since 1984, leading to large disparities in voter populations in different electoral districts. The monitors stated that despite problems with the electoral process, the results “reflected the will of the people.” As of November 2019, the final election report had not been released.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. Media reported several allegations of corruption against officials during the year. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: Media and private citizens reported government corruption was widespread and endorsed at the highest levels of government. In September, Prime Minister Browne and a prominent member of his political party traded public and specific accusations of corruption in government procurement and other areas that neither person refuted. The Citizenship by Investment Program was a critical source of government revenue, but its lack of transparency fueled citizen concerns concerning oversight and corruption.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires elected public officials to disclose all income, assets, and personal gifts received in the course of their public functions to the Integrity Commission. The disclosures are confidential. The commission has the power to investigate public officials without a formal complaint being filed.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: An independent ombudsman appointed by parliament handles public complaints against police, government officials, and government offices. The ombudsman takes complaints, conducts investigations, and then makes recommendations to the relevant authorities.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law establishes sentences ranging from 10 years’ to life imprisonment for conviction of the rape of women. The law also addresses rape of men and establishes sentences of five years’ to life imprisonment if convicted. Spousal rape is illegal under certain limited circumstances, such as after a legal separation, with a punishment of 15 years’ imprisonment if convicted.

Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a serious problem. The law prohibits and has penalties for conviction of domestic violence, but according to a local NGO representative, police failed to carry out their obligations on domestic violence under the law.

Authorities stated they had several domestic-violence programs, including training for law enforcement officers, health-care professionals, counselors, social workers, immigration officers, and army officers.

An NGO representative stated the government’s Directorate of Gender Affairs and the Family Social Services Division offered limited programs and resources to help victims of gender-based violence. According to the representative, government efforts to combat gender-based violence and rape were ineffective.

Sexual Harassment: The law defines harassment as a crime and establishes a five-year maximum prison sentence for conviction. The government stated it investigates formal complaints when they are filed; however, the Ministry of Labor reported it did not receive any reports of sexual harassment during the year. An NGO representative reported that sexual harassment in the workplace was a problem.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and had access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. The law criminalizes abortion except to save the life of the mother.

There were no legal or social barriers to accessing contraception, but some religious beliefs and cultural barriers limited its usage.

No government policies or legal, social, or cultural barriers adversely affected access to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence through the Ministry of Social Transformation and the Blue Economy. Within that ministry, various divisions (i.e., Social Welfare, Gender Affairs, and Social Improvement) worked together to assist victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. Legislation requires equal pay for equal work; however, women often received less pay for equal work. The labor code stipulates it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an individual because of his or her gender. The Ministry of Labor reported that it was investigating two cases of employment discrimination filed during the year.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is acquired by birth in the country, and the government registers all children at birth. Children born abroad to citizen parents can be registered by either parent.

Child Abuse: The law on child abuse includes provisions on childcare services and orders of care placing abused children into the care of government authorities. The law stipulates a significant fine or three years in prison for conviction of child abuse. In extreme cases the government removes children from their homes and puts them in foster care or into a government-run or private children’s home.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women. Persons ages 16 to 18 may marry with parental consent; however, marriage when either partner was younger than 18 was rare.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Child pornography is illegal and subject to large fines and up to 20 years in prison. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community was very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits any form of discrimination based on disability and stipulates a moderate fine or two years’ imprisonment for conviction of violations. A local NGO representative reported that the law was not effectively enforced. The NGO representative reported that some progress was made in specific areas such as vocational training for persons with disabilities. Public areas, including government buildings, often lacked wheelchair accessibility. Persons with disabilities faced social stigma.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There were no reports of public violence committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct between men is illegal under indecency statutes; however, the law was not strictly enforced. Conviction of consensual same-sex sexual conduct between men carries a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment. No law specifically prohibits discrimination against LGBTI persons.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Although the government denied it, an NGO representative reported that fear, stigma, and discrimination impaired the willingness of some persons with HIV to obtain treatment. Persons with HIV reported several incidents of discrimination from health-care professionals and police. Anecdotal evidence suggested employers dismissed and discriminated against employees with HIV or AIDS.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of public-sector and private-sector workers to form and join independent unions. The law also provides for the right to bargain collectively and conduct legal strikes, but it imposes several restrictions on the right to strike. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers, but it does not specifically require reinstatement of workers illegally fired for union activity.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected. There were no reports of antiunion discrimination, nor were there any reports of violations of collective bargaining rights.

Workers who provide essential services (including water, electricity, hospital, fire, prison, air traffic control, meteorology, telecommunications, government printing office, and port authority) must give two weeks’ notice of intent to strike. If either party to a dispute requests court mediation, strikes are prohibited under penalty of imprisonment for any private-sector worker and some government workers. The Industrial Relations Court may issue an injunction against a legal strike when the national interest is threatened or affected. The law prohibits retaliation against strikers.

Penalties for violating labor laws range from a minor fine to two months in prison and were adequate to deter violations. Government enforced the right of association and collective bargaining. Administrative and judicial procedures, however, were often subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government effectively enforced the law when specific complaints were filed. The Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy investigates cases of trafficking in persons, including forced labor allegations. The law prescribes penalties of 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment and significant fines. Forced labor occurred in domestic service and the retail sector, particularly in family-owned businesses.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

Laws contain definitions that collectively prohibit the worst forms of child labor, but specific details are not in any single statute. The government enforced child labor laws effectively, and there were no reports of child labor law violations during the year.

The law stipulates a minimum working age of 16, although work prohibitions do not apply to family businesses. In some circumstances children younger than 16 are eligible for employment with restrictions, such as not working during school hours and working a maximum number of hours. Persons younger than 18 may not work past 10 p.m., except in certain sectors, and in some cases must have a medical clearance to obtain employment. No list of hazardous work exists for the protection of those younger than 18.

The law requires the Ministry of Labor to conduct periodic inspections of workplaces. There were no reports of illegal child labor; however, there were no child labor inspections. The law allows for a small financial penalty or three months in prison for violations, which were adequate to deter violations.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment and occupation regarding race, skin color, sex, age, national origin, citizenship, political beliefs, and disability. Penalties include a fine and up to 12 months in prison. A local NGO representative reported that discrimination occurred in the workplace, without citing specific cases. The Ministry of Labor did not receive any discrimination complaints during the year.

The law does not prohibit employment discrimination based on religion, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV or other communicable disease status, or social status, but the government encouraged employers not to discriminate on these grounds.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The government does not have an established poverty income level. Most workers earned substantially more than the minimum wage.

The law provides that workers are not required to work more than a 48-hour, six-day workweek. The law requires that employees be paid for overtime work at one and one-half times the employees’ basic hourly wage after exceeding 40 hours in the workweek. The Ministry of Labor put few limitations on overtime, allowing it in temporary or occasional cases, but did not allow employers to make regular overtime compulsory.

The law includes occupational safety and health (OSH) provisions. The Ministry of Labor reported that workers are allowed to remove themselves from unsafe situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. The ministry has the authority to require special safety measures, not otherwise defined in the law, for worker safety. An NGO reported that while the government generally enforced most elements of the labor law, OSH enforcement was less effective. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were not always commensurate with those for similar crimes such as negligence.

Labor inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and the Industrial Court are responsible for enforcement of labor laws in the formal and informal sectors. The government reported there were eight labor inspectors, which was insufficient to enforce full compliance. The government enforced labor laws, including levying remedies and modest fines for nonpayment of wages. Penalties for illegal overtime did not always effectively deter labor violations.

An NGO representative reported that workers in a local distillery were transporting hazardous liquids without adequate protective gear. An electric utility worker was electrocuted while working on a utility pole.

Dominica

Executive Summary

Dominica is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. The prime minister is the head of government. The House of Assembly elects the president, who serves as the head of state. In the 2019 election, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s Dominica Labour Party prevailed over the opposition United Workers Party by a margin of 18 seats to three. Election observers from the Organization of American States, United Nations, and Caribbean Community found the election generally free and fair.

The Ministry of Justice, Immigration, and National Security oversees the police, the country’s only security force. The Financial Intelligence Unit reports to the Ministry of Legal Affairs; some of its officers have arrest authority. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were no reports of significant abuses by the security forces.

Significant human rights issues included: criminalization of libel and criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, although there were no reported cases of enforcement during the year.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses, but some cases remained unresolved.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. There were no reports that impunity in the security forces was a significant problem.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions or inmate abuse.

Administration: Authorities investigated credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: An independent committee composed of the chief welfare officer, justices of the peace, chaplains, youth welfare officers, social workers, and senior retired civil servants visited the prison once per month to investigate complaints and monitor prison and detention center conditions. Prisoners could request meetings with the superintendent to lodge complaints. The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers.

Improvements: Prison officials installed new toilets and beds in the maximum-security block and created a new space for visits. In addition prison officials upgraded facilities to include a virtual courtroom. A quarantine unit for prisoners with COVID-19 was created with a capacity of 20 beds.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Police used warrants issued by a judicial authority to apprehend persons. The law requires that authorities inform persons of the reasons for their arrest within 24 hours and bring detainees to court within 72 hours. Authorities generally observed these requirements. If authorities are unable to bring a detainee to court within the requisite period, the detainee may be released and rearrested later. There was a functioning bail system. Criminal detainees had prompt access to counsel and family members. The state provides a lawyer for indigent defendants only in murder cases.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem due to judicial staff shortages. According to prison management, prisoners remained on remand status for months or even years. An estimated 40 percent of inmates were awaiting trial.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Inadequate prosecutorial and police staffing, outdated legislation, and a lack of magistrates resulted in backlogs and other problems in the judicial system.

Trial Procedures

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence; prompt and detailed information about charges; a trial without undue delay; personal presence at their trial; communication with an attorney of their choice; adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; free assistance of an interpreter; the ability to challenge prosecution or plaintiff witnesses; to present their own witnesses and evidence; freedom from being compelled to testify or confess guilt; and appeal.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There is an independent, impartial judiciary to which one can bring lawsuits seeking civil remedies for human rights abuses. Individuals and organizations cannot appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights courts for a binding decision; however, individuals and organizations may present petitions to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Libel/Slander Laws: Defamation is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment or fines. There were no active defamation suits against local journalists. Media representatives reported that public and private threats of lawsuits were made against media outlets and individual reporters, leading to some self-censorship.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. Individuals residing outside the Carib-Kalinago community must apply to the Carib Council for special access if they wish to live in the Kalinago Territory.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

No information was available on the government’s cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting asylum and refugee status, but the government has not established systems for determining when to grant asylum or protect refugees.

g. Stateless Persons

Not applicable.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In the December 2019 general election, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s Dominica Labour Party prevailed over the opposition United Workers Party by a margin of 18 seats to three. The Caribbean Community, Organization of American States, and UN election observers assessed the election as generally free, fair, and transparent.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government implemented the law inconsistently. According to civil society representatives and members of the political opposition, officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

Corruption: Local media and opposition leadership continued to raise allegations of corruption within the government, including in the Citizenship by Investment program.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires senior government officials to account annually for their income, assets, and gifts. All offenses under the law, including the late filing of declarations, are criminal offenses. The Integrity Commission generally reported on late submissions and on inappropriately completed forms but did not share financial disclosures with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions or the general public.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights and advocacy organizations generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: According to the constitution, a parliamentary commissioner has responsibility for investigating complaints against the government.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law. Although the maximum sentence for sexual molestation (rape or incest) is 25 years’ imprisonment, the usual sentence was five to seven years. Whenever possible, female police officers handled rape cases involving female victims. Women were reluctant to report domestic violence to police. The only shelter for victims of gender-based violence remained closed after suffering damage during Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Civil society reported that sexual and domestic violence were common. According to civil society groups, the general population did not acknowledge gender-based violence and domestic violence as problems but the government recognized these forms of violence as both problematic and prevalent. Although no specific laws criminalize spousal abuse, spouses may bring battery charges against their partner.

The law allows abused persons to appear before a magistrate without an attorney and request a protective order, and some persons requested protective orders.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment. Civil society groups reported it was a pervasive problem.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and had access to the information needed to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.

The law criminalizes abortion, except to save the life of the mother. Under the law, intentionally and unlawfully causing abortion or miscarriage is punishable by imprisonment for life. The law can be applied to an act by the mother or any other person.

Contraception was widely available. There were no legal or social barriers to accessing contraception, but some religious beliefs and cultural barriers limited its usage.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence through the Ministry of Health’s Welfare Division and the National Council of Women. Other government departments, including the Bureau of Gender Affairs, the Social Welfare Department, the Adult Education Division, and the Health Services and Housing Division, also assisted victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The constitution provides women with the same legal rights as men. The government generally enforced the law effectively, but property deeds continued to be given to heads of households, who were usually men. The law requires equal pay for civil service positions. Women and men generally received equal salaries for comparable jobs.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth within the country’s territory or to a citizen parent. Parents received birth certificates on a timely basis. Failure to register births resulted in denial of access to public services except emergency care.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, but according to the government and civil society, it remained a pervasive problem. The government maintained a Child Abuse Prevention Unit responsible for protecting children from all forms of abuse. The unit supported victims by providing counseling, psychological assessments, and other services such as financial assistance to abused children and to family members.

Civil society representatives noted that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) children were at particular risk of abuse. They reported that additional support and reforms were needed to support victims of child abuse, including safe and secure reporting and rehabilitation spaces, more and better-trained welfare officers, and reforms to the justice system.

Underage children were often required to testify directly in court against their abusers, who were also physically present, instead of providing prerecorded testimony from more private and secure spaces. Additionally, cases sometimes wended through the court system for years, with children repeatedly being required to attend hearings. Publicly available lists of offenders did not exist. Advocates claimed that the justice system discouraged prosecution of child abuse, discouraged victims from seeking justice, and allowed repeat offenders to continue the cycle of abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women, but marriage is permitted at age 16 with parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The age of consent for sexual relations is 16. The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children for prostitution, and related activity may be prosecuted under laws against prostitution or trafficking. The law protects all persons from “unlawful sexual connection,” rape, procurement for prostitution, and incest. It prohibits sexual intercourse between a child and an adult and increases the penalty to 25 years of imprisonment for an adult who rapes a child whom the adult employs or controls, or to whom the adult pays wages. The law criminalizes behaviors such as voyeurism.

The maximum sentence for sexual intercourse with a person younger than age 14 is 25 years in prison. When victims are between ages 14 and 16, the maximum sentence is 14 years.

No laws or regulations explicitly prohibit the use of children in pornography or pornographic performances.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There is no organized Jewish community in the country, and there were no reports of discrimination or anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

There were no confirmed reports that the country was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking.

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. There were no reports of overt discrimination against persons with disabilities. The government provided partial financial support for a civil society organization focused on advocating for and improving the lives of persons with disabilities, although additional needs remained.

There is no legal requirement mandating access to buildings for persons with disabilities. Few buildings, including public buildings, provided access for persons with physical disabilities.

Children with physical disabilities and those with hearing and vision disabilities were integrated into mainstream schools. The government provided stipends to cover educational expenses in private special-education schools for children with intellectual or mental disabilities. Representatives of civil society organizations reported that accessibility problems existed in the physical environment of schools and with educational accommodations for persons with disabilities.

Indigenous People

The population of the Kalinago (Carib) indigenous group was approximately 3,000, most of whom lived in the 3,782-acre Kalinago Territory. The government recognizes their special status, and the Kalinagos’ rights are protected in law and practice. The law establishes the Kalinago Territory and assigns management authority over the territory to the local council, including the exercise of veto power over new infrastructure projects within the territory. Some societal discrimination against the Kalinago existed, most notably against Kalinago children when they attended schools outside the territory. There was no secondary school inside the territory.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Consensual same-sex sexual conduct for both men and women is illegal under indecency statutes. The law also prohibits anal intercourse between males. The government reported it rarely enforced either statute, with no instances of the law being enforced through November. Indecency statutes carry a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison, and same-sex sexual conduct between consenting men carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of forced psychiatric confinement upon release.

No laws prohibit discrimination against a person based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics in employment, housing, education, or health care.

Anecdotal evidence suggested that strong societal and employment discrimination were common against persons due to their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics. Civil society representatives reported that LGBTI victims of violence or harassment avoided notifying police of abuse because of social stigma and fear of harassment. Representatives further reported that in cases where police were notified of attacks on LGBTI persons, police either rejected or poorly investigated some claims.

Civil society actors reported that some LGBTI individuals were denied access to housing, lost employment, were bullied in schools, and were denied educational and institutional support. Stigma and fear of abuse and intimidation prevented LGBTI organizations from developing their membership or conducting activities such as Pride marches. A representative of one prominent LGBTI organization noted that participation in a Pride celebration would be tantamount to “social suicide,” although the same representative noted that acceptance of LGBTI persons was slowly growing.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Reports from civil society indicated individuals with HIV feared job discrimination if their HIV status became public. This fear resulted in some patients not seeking medical treatment.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes; workers exercised these rights. Workers exercised the right to collective bargaining primarily in the nonagricultural sectors of the economy, including in the civil service. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination.

The government enforced applicable labor laws, and penalties were commensurate with those of other laws involving denial of civil rights such as discrimination. Employers must reinstate workers who file a complaint of illegal dismissal, pending review of the complaint, which can cover termination for engaging in union activities. Generally, when essential workers conducted strikes, they did not suffer reprisals. Employers generally reinstated or paid compensation to employees who obtained favorable rulings by the ministry following a complaint of illegal dismissal.

The law designates emergency, port, electricity, telecommunications, and prison services, as well as the banana, coconut, and citrus fruit cultivation industries, as “essential,” limiting their right to strike. The International Labor Organization noted the list of essential services is broader than international standards. The procedure for essential workers to strike is cumbersome, involving appropriate notice and submission of the grievance to the labor commissioner for possible mediation. Strikes in essential services can be subject to compulsory arbitration.

The government and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The government generally enforced applicable laws, and penalties generally were sufficient to deter violations. Administrative and judicial procedures were not subject to lengthy delays or appeals, and there were no such problems during the year. Government mediation and arbitration were free of charge. Few disputes escalated to strikes or sickouts. A company, a union representative, or an individual may request mediation by the Ministry of Justice, Immigration, and National Security.

In recent years mediation by the Office of the Labour Commissioner in the Ministry of Justice, Immigration, and National Security resolved approximately 70 percent of strikes and sickouts, while the rest were referred to the Industrial Relations Tribunal for binding arbitration.

Small, family-owned farms performed most agricultural work, and workers on such farms were not unionized.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The constitution prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the law does not prescribe penalties for forced labor. The law also does not criminalize forced labor except when it results from human trafficking. The government effectively enforced the law. The penalties were not commensurate with those for analogous crimes such as kidnapping.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits some of the worst forms of child labor, and in general the government effectively enforced these laws. The law provides for some limitations on age, safety conditions, and working hours, especially during the school year. The law does not prohibit the use of children for pornography.

The legal minimum age of employment is 12 if children work in family-run businesses and farms, as long as the work does not involve selling alcohol. The law allows children age 14 and older to work in apprenticeships and regular jobs that do not involve hazardous work. The law prohibits employing any child younger than age 16 during the school year but makes an exception for family-owned businesses. The law does not protect children from exploitative work outside of the school year, and the government has not determined the types of hazardous work prohibited for children. The country also lacks prohibitions against the use of children in pornography, or pornographic performances, and the use of children in illicit activities, including the production and trafficking of drugs.

While the government does not have a comprehensive list of hazardous work prohibited for children, the Ministry of Justice, Immigration, and National Security considers jobs such as mining and seafaring as hazardous. In addition children younger than age 18 are prohibited from working at night and from working on ships. Safety standards limit the type of work, conditions, and hours of work for children older than age 14, most of whom worked in services or hospitality.

Children may not work more than eight hours a day. The law provides for sentences to deter violations of child labor law, and the government generally enforced the law. The government did not perform comprehensive inspections; however, the laws and penalties generally were adequate to remove children from illegal child labor but with penalties less stringent than for analogous crimes such as kidnapping.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution specifically prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, place of origin, skin color, creed, or political opinion. The government generally enforced this provision. There are legal restrictions on employment of women in working at night and in certain industries such as mining, construction, factories, energy, water, and transportation. There were no government programs to prevent discrimination in the workplace and no penalties to deter violations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred against women and persons with disabilities. Discrimination also occurred based on sexual orientation. The law permits employers to pay lower wages to persons with disabilities.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law establishes no universal minimum wage but instead sets base wages depending on the category of worker. The labor commissioner did not authorize subminimum wages during the year. No reliable recent data indicate whether average minimum wages are above or below the poverty level.

The law provides for overtime pay for work above the standard workweek of 40 hours. The law does not specifically prohibit forced or compulsory overtime. The law mandates that overtime wages be paid at a minimum of 1.5 times an employee’s standard wage and the employee must give prior agreement to work overtime. There were no prosecutions reported for violations of overtime regulations.

The law ensures occupational health and safety standards are consistent with international standards. Workers have the right to remove themselves from unsafe work environments without jeopardizing their employment, and authorities effectively enforced this right.

Enforcement is the responsibility of the labor commissioner within the Ministry of Justice, Immigration, and National Security. This enforcement includes the informal sector, where workers were not commonly unionized. Inspectors had the authority to make unannounced inspections, but the government did not enforce the law effectively. The penalties for violations were insufficient to ensure compliance.

The informal sector was a significant part of the economy, but credible data on the informal workforce were unavailable. No social protection was provided to persons in the informal sector beyond social security benefits for maternity leave, sickness, disability, or death. Domestic workers are not covered by labor law and do not receive social protections.

Quarry workers faced hazardous conditions. Some reports claimed that workers entered mines before adequate time elapsed after blasting, which exposed them to hazardous chemicals.

There were no reported workplace accidents causing fatalities or major injuries during the year.

Grenada

Executive Summary

Grenada is a parliamentary democracy with a bicameral legislature. Observers considered the 2018 elections to be generally free and fair. The New National Party won all 15 seats in the House of Representatives and selected Keith Mitchell as prime minister.

The Royal Grenada Police Force has the responsibility for law enforcement and reports to the Ministry of National Security. The country does not have a military force but has a tactical special services unit under the Royal Grenada Police Force, which is similar to a military division. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were no reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

Significant human rights issues included the existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex conduct between men, but the law was not enforced during the year.

The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces. Allegations of abuse by public authorities are reported to the Office of the Ombudsman, which works with the relevant authorities to assist with a resolution. When a complaint is made to the ombudsman, the office may refer it to an appropriate authority, make inquiries, investigate, and make recommendations to the appropriate authority or mediate. The Commissioner’s Office of the Royal Grenada Police Force investigates any actions of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions were harsh due to gross overcrowding.

Physical Conditions: In August there were 357 prisoners, including three women, in the country’s sole penitentiary, which was designed for 150 persons. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, authorities placed four to five prisoners per cell in spaces that typically held six to eight persons. In the male block, potable water was available in prison hallways but not in cells. Potable water was available in the cells of the female block.

Administration: Authorities investigated credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The prison visiting committee, composed of nongovernmental persons, conducted monthly visits and addressed allegations of mistreatment, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was also a Prison Rehabilitation Committee composed of social workers and counselors who conducted independent monitoring of prison conditions.

Improvements: To reduce overcrowding at the prison during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government issued convict licenses to allow inmates with shorter sentences and convictions for petty crimes to be released from prison earlier. A total of 41 inmates were released under this program.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge in court the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law permits police to detain individuals on suspicion of criminal activity without a warrant, but police must bring formal charges within 48 hours. Authorities generally respected this limit. Authorities granted detainees access to a lawyer of their choice and family members within 24 hours. The law provides for a judicial determination of the legality of detention within 15 days of arrest. Police must formally arraign or release a detained person within 60 days, and authorities generally followed these procedures. There is a functioning bail system, although persons charged with capital offenses are not eligible. A judge may set bail for detainees charged with treason only upon a recommendation from the governor general.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

There is a presumption of innocence. The law protects individuals against self-incrimination. Individuals have the right to be informed promptly of the charges against them. The law requires police to explain a person’s rights upon arrest. Defendants have the right to a trial without undue delay, although case backlogs meant periods of several months to a year before many cases went to trial. Trials are open to the public unless the charges are sexual in nature or a minor is involved. The law allows defendants the right to be present at their trial and to seek the advice of legal counsel. Defendants have the right for a defense lawyer to be present during interrogation and for the lawyer to advise the accused on how to respond to questions. Defendants and their counsel generally had adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense as well as free assistance of an interpreter. Defendants have the right to confront their accusers, present evidence, and call witnesses. Accused persons have the right to remain silent and to appeal.

The court appoints attorneys for indigents in cases of murder or other capital crimes. In appeals of criminal cases, the court appoints a lawyer if the defendant is unable to afford counsel. According to the Grenada Human Rights Organization, many defendants could not afford private legal counsel, and the government lacked adequate legal aid resources to meet the demand for free legal aid. With the exception of foreign-born drug-crime suspects or persons charged with murder, the courts granted bail to most defendants awaiting trial.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There is an independent and impartial judiciary for civil matters, including human rights violations. Defendants may appeal any High Court decision, including human rights decisions, to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights, although the cabinet instituted general prohibitions on large gatherings under the emergency powers laws due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status; however, the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees through UNHCR.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In the general elections held in 2018, the New National Party won all 15 seats in the House of Representatives, defeating the largest opposing party, the National Democratic Congress. The Organization of American States observer mission deemed the elections generally free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal, civil, and administrative penalties for corruption by officials and was implemented effectively. Nonetheless, there were general allegations, particularly by the political opposition and some media outlets, of government corruption.

Corruption: There were no cases of government corruption during the year.

Financial Disclosure: The law requires all elected officials and members of the Integrity in Public Life Commission to report their income and assets. The commission monitors and verifies disclosures but does not publicly disclose them except in court. The commission must note in the official gazette failure to file a disclosure. If the office holder in question fails to file in response to this notification, the commission may seek a court order to enforce compliance, and a judge may impose conditions as deemed appropriate.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The ombudsman has authority to investigate complaints from persons who object to government actions they deem unfair, abusive, illegal, discriminatory, or negligent.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, including spousal rape, and stipulates a sentence of flogging or up to 30 years’ imprisonment for a conviction of any nonconsensual form of sex. Authorities referred charges involving rape or related crimes for prosecution and generally enforced the law.

The law prohibits domestic violence and provides for penalties at the discretion of the presiding judge based on the severity of the offense. The law allows for a maximum penalty of 30 years’ imprisonment, and authorities enforced the law. The Central Statistical Office reported cases of domestic violence against both women and men. Police and judicial authorities usually acted promptly in cases of domestic violence. According to women’s rights monitors, violence against women nevertheless remained a serious and pervasive problem.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but there were no criminal penalties for it. The government noted it was a persistent problem.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had access to the information and the means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.

Contraception was widely available. There were no legal or social barriers to accessing contraception, but some religious beliefs created cultural barriers to contraception usage.

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence through the Ministry of Social Development. The Ministry of Social Development, the Gender-based Violence Unit, Social Services, and the Grenada Planned Parenthood Association assisted victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men, and there was no evidence of formal discrimination in education. The law mandates equal pay for equal work. The government enforced the law effectively.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from birth in the country or, if abroad, by birth to a Grenadian parent upon petition. All births were promptly registered.

Child Abuse: The law stipulates penalties ranging from five to 15 years’ imprisonment for those convicted of child abuse and disallows the victim’s alleged “consent” as a defense in cases of incest. Government social service agencies reported cases of child abuse, including physical and sexual abuse, and had programs to combat child abuse. Authorities placed abused children in either a government-run home or private foster homes.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 21, although persons as young as 18 may be married with parental consent in writing.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law does not comprehensively prohibit the commercial sexual exploitation of all children, although the posting and circulation of child pornography on the internet is prohibited. The law also prohibits the importation, sale, and public display of pornography. The law prohibits sale and trafficking of children for prostitution, for the production of pornography, or for pornographic performances. The government enforced the law. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16. A statutory rape law applies when the victim is age 15 or younger. The penalty is 30 years’ imprisonment if the victim is younger than 13, and 15 years’ imprisonment if the victim is 13 to 15 years of age.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was a small Jewish community. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

There were no confirmed reports during the year that Grenada was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking.

Persons with Disabilities

Discrimination against persons with disabilities is generally prohibited, and there were no reports of discrimination against persons with disabilities. Although the law does not mandate access to public transportation, services, or buildings, building owners increasingly incorporated accessibility features during new construction and renovations. The government provided for special education throughout the school system; however, most parents chose to send children with disabilities to special education schools, believing those schools offered better conditions for learning.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct and provides penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The government did not actively enforce the law. The law makes no provision for same-sex sexual conduct between women.

No laws specifically prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education, health care, access to government services, and essential goods and services against a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

It was common for family members to shun persons with HIV or AIDS.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent labor unions, participate in collective bargaining, and, with some restrictions, conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. It requires employers to recognize a union that represents the majority of workers in a particular business, but it does not oblige employers to recognize a union unless the majority of the workforce belongs to the union.

While workers in essential services have the right to strike, the labor minister may refer disputes involving essential services to compulsory arbitration. The government’s list of essential services is broad and includes services not regarded as essential by the International Labor Organization. Essential services in the government’s list include electricity and water; public-health sectors, including sanitation; airport, air traffic, seaport, and dock services, including pilotage; fire departments; telephone and telegraph companies; prisons and police; and hospital services and nursing.

The government respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Employers generally recognized and bargained with unions even if a majority of the workforce did not belong to a union.

The government generally enforced labor laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. Administrative and judicial procedures related to labor were subject to lengthy delays and appeals. Labor organizations sought a change in labor laws to effect timely resolution of disputes following labor action.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor and specifically prohibits the sale or trafficking of children for exploitive labor. The law requires the use of force, threats, abuse of power, or other forms of coercion for trafficking to be considered an offense. The law does not sufficiently prohibit the trafficking of children, despite establishing heightened penalties for traffickers of children, because it requires the use of coercion for trafficking to be considered an offense. The government effectively enforced the law, and the penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The statutory minimum age for employment of children is 16 years. The law allows holiday employment for children younger than 16 but does not specify the minimum age, types of work, or number of hours permitted for such work. The law also permits employment of children younger than 18 if employers meet certain conditions related to hours, insurance, and working conditions set forth in the labor code. There is no explicit prohibition against children’s involvement in hazardous work.

Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor enforced the minimum age provisions in the formal sector through periodic checks. Enforcement in the informal sector was insufficient, specifically for family farms. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation based on race, color, national origin, religion, political opinion, gender, age, or disability. The law does not prohibit discrimination in respect to employment or occupation based on language, HIV status or other communicable diseases, sexual orientation, or gender identity. While there is no penalty for violating the law, authorities stated the country adheres to International Labor Organization guidelines and standards. In general the law and regulations were effectively enforced in collaboration with the Labor Commissioner’s Office within the Ministry of Labor. Penalties were commensurate to laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law provides for a national minimum wage for various categories of employment, which was above the poverty income rate.

The government sets health and safety standards. Workers may remove themselves from situations endangering health or safety without jeopardizing their employment if they reasonably believe the situation presents an imminent or serious danger to life or health.

Enforcement involving wages, hours, occupational safety, and other elements is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor. Labor inspectors are responsible for the full range of labor rights inspections, including workplace safety and the right to organize. Labor officers worked with employers in sectors such as energy, agriculture, and construction to promote appropriate clothing, health checks, and pesticide safety. The government effectively enforced minimum wage requirements and reported no violations of the law concerning working hours. The government did not always enforce occupational health and safety regulations. There were no major industrial accidents during the year.

The government informally encouraged businesses to rectify violations without resorting to formal channels for compliance that included fines and penalties. The government provided no information on the amount the law sets for fines or other penalties.

Malta

Executive Summary

Malta is a constitutional republic and parliamentary democracy. The president is the head of state, appointed by a resolution of the unicameral House of Representatives (parliament) for a term of five years. In 2019 parliament appointed George Vella president for a five-year term beginning April 4. The president names as prime minister the leader of the party that wins a majority of seats in parliamentary elections. During the year the government adopted a constitutional amendment that strengthens the executive authority of the president by providing that the president be appointed by a resolution of parliament that is supported by at least two-thirds of its members. Early parliamentary elections held in 2017, in which the Labor Party maintained its majority, were considered free and fair. On January 13, parliamentarian Robert Abela was appointed prime minister after winning a Labor Party leadership contest on January 11. He replaced Joseph Muscat who announced his resignation both as party leader and prime minister in December 2019.

The national police maintain internal security. The armed forces are responsible for external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities. Both report to the Ministry of Home Affairs, National Security, and Law Enforcement. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the national police, the intelligence services, and the armed forces. There were reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses during the year.

Significant human rights issues included: unlawful detention and continued allegations of high-level government corruption.

The government took steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed abuses, whether in security services or elsewhere in the government.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year. Cases continued against two members of the armed forces charged in May 2019 with the murder of a migrant from Ivory Coast and a nonfatal hit-and-run of a migrant from Chad. Following the incident, the Armed Forces launched an internal inquiry for evidence of racism within its ranks. The inquiry, concluded in May, yielded no such evidence. Police are ultimately responsible for investigating whether security force killings were justifiable and for pursuing prosecutions.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution or law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns. Reports of poor conditions in detention centers for migrants were exacerbated by a significant increase in migrant arrivals, straining the centers beyond their planned capacity.

Physical Conditions: In migrant detention centers, there were reports of overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, and repeated inmate protests.

Administration: Authorities allowed prisoners and detainees to submit uncensored complaints to judicial officials and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. Authorities investigated such complaints, and victims sought redress in the courts.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted visits to detention centers by independent domestic and international human rights observers and media. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported, however, that the government restricted and later stopped their visits to refugee and migrant detention centers, allegedly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In September a delegation from the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture examined the conditions of detention for, and treatment of, migrants deprived of their liberty, including families with young children and unaccompanied and separated minors. By year’s end the committee had not released a report on the results of the visit.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

A magistrate may issue an arrest warrant to detain a person for questioning based on reasonable suspicion. According to the constitution, police must either file charges or release a suspect within 48 hours. In all cases authorities must inform detainees of the grounds for their arrest. Police generally respected these requirements. During the 48-hour detention period and prior to the initial interrogation, authorities allowed arrested persons access to legal counsel but did not permit visits by family members. The state provides legal aid for arrested persons who cannot afford a lawyer. The law allows police to delay access to legal counsel for up to 36 hours after arrest in certain circumstances, such as when exercising this right could lead to interference with evidence or harm to other persons. After filing charges, authorities granted pretrial detainees’ access to both counsel and family. A functioning bail system is in place.

During the spring, the government enacted legislation that transposes into Maltese law directives of the European Parliament and European Council of 2016 related to legal aid for suspects and accused persons in criminal or in European warrant proceedings, as well as procedural safeguards for children who are suspects or accused persons in criminal proceedings.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem. Authorities occasionally confined foreign suspects for more than two years pending arraignment and trial, normally due to lengthy legal procedures. Approximately 30 percent of the prison population was in pretrial detention. The courts adjudicate applications for bail on a case-by-case basis and normally granted bail to citizens. The courts rarely granted bail to foreigners. In January authorities charged and convicted 22 migrants of taking part in a protest against prolonged detention at the facility in Safi, imprisoned them for nine months, and fined them.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. There were no reports of instances in which the outcomes of trials appeared predetermined by government or other interference. Authorities respected and enforced court orders.

Between July 2019 and August, the government enacted reforms, including constitutional amendments and legislation, to strengthen the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary and law enforcement. The reforms included legislation that revised the composition of the Committee for Judges and Magistrates to stipulate that removal of members of the judiciary is made by a nonpolitical body and to provide for the appeal of decisions of the Commission for the Administration of Justice. Legislation was also adopted that provides for the appointment of the chief justice [Act No. XLIII of 2020–Constitution of Malta (Amendment) Act] with the approval of two-thirds parliamentary majority; for a change in the composition of the Judicial Appointments Committee to specify that a majority of members of the committee come from the judiciary; and for the issuing of public calls for vacancies in the judiciary. Other reform legislation provided for the division of the prosecution and government advisory roles of the attorney general by transferring the government advisory roles to a new Office of the State Advocate. Under this act, the government appointed the first new state advocate in December 2019.

On April 8, as part of a judicial reform process, the president appointed Judge Mark Chetcuti as the new chief justice following a new joint parliamentary procedure between government and the opposition. The new procedure departed from the previous practice of the president appointing the chief justice on the advice of the prime minister.

Trial Procedures

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, the right to a fair and public trial, and the right to be present at their trial. Defendants have the right to prompt and detailed information of the charges, with free interpretation if necessary, from the moment charged through all appeals. They can communicate with an attorney of their choice or have one provided at public expense if they are unable to pay. Defendants and their lawyers receive adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants may confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. They are not compelled to testify or to confess guilt and have the right to appeal.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

The constitution provides for an independent and impartial court in civil matters, including human rights matters. After exhausting their right of appeal in the national court system, individuals may apply to bring cases covered by the European Convention on Human Rights before the European Court of Human Rights.

Property Restitution

Although the country endorsed the Terezin Declaration, there have been no reports related to Holocaust-era property restitution. The country remained a British colony and Allied naval stronghold throughout World War II. The Nazis never invaded or occupied Malta, and Maltese property was never seized.

For information on Holocaust-era restitution and related topics, please see the Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress, released on July 29, at https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.

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

The constitution and law prohibit such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system generally combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Freedom of Speech: It remains a criminal offense to “commit an offence against decency or morals, by any act committed in a public place or in a place exposed to the public.” The law criminalizes speech that promotes hatred on grounds of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, language, ethnic origin, religion or belief, or political or other opinion. Incitement to religious hatred is punishable by a prison term of six to 18 months. On January 30, the courts found in favor of civil society activist Manuel Delia in a constitutional case against the government. The courts found that the government had breached Delia’s right to freedom of expression when it ordered the removal of articles protesters, including Delia, had placed on the makeshift memorial for Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist killed by a car bomb in 2017.

Violence and Harassment: In 2017 police charged three persons with the killing of Caruana Galizia in a 2017 car bombing near her home. They were awaiting trial. Caruana Galizia had reported on major government corruption, allegedly involving the prime minister and other senior government officials.

In September 2019, Prime Minister Muscat created a commission for an independent public inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s killing. In November 2019, police arrested business magnate Yorgen Fenech as a “person of interest” in the killing, charging him with criminal conspiracy, being an accomplice in Caruana Galizia’s murder, and conspiring to commit murder, among other things. Fenech denied the charges. Both the public inquiry and the murder investigation continued (for case details, see section 4, Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government).

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: The government delayed safe disembarkation to refugees and migrants intercepted at sea, ostensibly due to coronavirus concerns. There were allegations the government ordered private fishing trawlers to intercept migrants and refugees at sea and to return them forcibly to Libya.

On November 30, the courts ordered the release of four migrants after the courts found that authorities had detained them illegally for 166 days. Earlier, on October 29, the courts had also ordered the immediate release of an Ivorian national after they found that Maltese authorities had detained him illegally for 144 days. On November 4, 50 asylum seekers and the siblings of two others who had died opened a constitutional case against the prime minister, the minister of home affairs, national security, and law enforcement, and the commander of the Armed Forces of Malta after they were reportedly pushed back to Libya in April in a seaborne operation. They alleged that Maltese authorities had violated their human rights, including the right to life and the right to seek asylum and subjected them to inhuman and degrading treatment and collective expulsion. The civil society NGO Republika supported the migrants’ case.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country denied asylum to applicants who arrived from other EU countries, in accordance with the Dublin III Regulation.

Freedom of Movement: The government may legally detain an asylum applicant for up to nine months. By law the detention must serve to verify the applicant’s identity or nationality; identify elements on which the asylum application is based; decide on the applicant’s legal right to enter the country; facilitate a return procedure, including to another EU country; or protect national security or public order.

In some cases, immigration authorities may allow alternatives to detention, which are also limited to nine months’ duration, which may include regular reporting to an assigned place, residing at an assigned place, or depositing documents or a surety. Most asylum seekers were allowed one of these alternatives to detention and stayed in detention for no more than two months.

Immigration officers may also legally detain irregular migrants (including failed asylum seekers) who are subject to repatriation. Such detention may have a duration of six months and can be extended by a further 12 months. Most persons detained under these regulations stayed in detention for less than three months prior to their return.

Persons permitted to remain in the country were issued work permits. They were eligible for voluntary repatriation programs, but few chose to participate.

Durable Solutions: Between January and August, 64 persons were granted refugee status. Few refugees were able to naturalize. While persons with refugee status may apply for reunification with family outside the country, those with temporary “subsidiary” protection–the majority of asylum seekers–are not allowed to do so. From January to September, four migrants sought assisted voluntary return. According to several NGOs, integration efforts continued to move slowly, since migrants generally tended to stay close to residential centers, although some moved into the community. Many migrants found work, mostly in low-skill sectors.

Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection, known as “subsidiary” protection, to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. From January to July, the country granted subsidiary protection to 148 persons.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers considered parliamentary elections held in 2017 to be free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Cultural and traditional barriers remained an obstacle to increased participation by women. Women’s representation in the political sector remained low, although this was less prevalent among Maltese members of the European Parliament.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively against low-level corruption. Allegations of high-level government corruption continued during the year. Rule of law concerns over the government’s lack of criminal prosecutions and convictions for tax evasion and money laundering persisted, although both the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and the Malta Financial Services Authority stepped up oversight and enforcement.

Between July 2019 and August, the government enacted reforms, including constitutional amendments and legislation, to strengthen provisions of the law against corruption. The reform measures included the establishment of a legal framework to facilitate the dissolution of a credit institution to prevent money laundering and the funding of terrorism; the revision of the method for appointing the chairman and the members of the Permanent Commission against Corruption; and a law that transposes into Maltese law EU directives on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing.

Corruption: There were developments during the year on allegations of high-level government corruption stemming from international investigations into Pilatus Bank, established in the country in 2014, and the work of investigative reporter Caruana Galizia. Before Caruana Galizia was killed, she alleged the prime minister’s wife was the ultimate beneficial owner of a Panamanian offshore account connected to transactions involving Pilatus, and she was investigating separate government corruption allegations that the prime minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and former energy minister Konrad Mizzi took part in a 1.8 million euro ($2.2 million) kickback scheme related to an energy deal with the consortium Electrogas. Both Schembri and Mizzi resigned in November 2019. In September a continued public inquiry into the death of Caruana Galizia showed the government authorized a 40-million-euro ($48 million) tax and excise exemption for Electrogas.

In the wake of the developments in the Caruana Galizia case in November 2019 and protests by civil society calling for his resignation, former prime minister Muscat stepped down on January 12. Prime Minister Robert Abela was elected to replace him on January 13. In November 2019 police arrested business magnate and former Electrogas board member Yorgen Fenech, eventually charging him in court with several violations in connection with the Caruana Galizia murder case. The arrest followed a presidential pardon granted to an alleged middleman, Melvin Theuma, who revealed information about Caruana Galizia’s killing.

In a July report, the auditor general noted that correspondence indicated collusion between government officials and representatives of Vitals Global Healthcare (VGH) over a government contract. This followed a November 2019 court decision to reverse earlier rulings and begin a criminal inquiry into the roles of ministers Edward Scicluna, Christian Cardona, and Konrad Mizzi in the VGH deal.

On August 24, police investigators working on the journalist’s murder case interrogated former prime minister Joseph Muscat. In September, Keith Schembri was arrested and subsequently released on bail for allegedly receiving kickbacks amounting to 100,000 euros ($120,000) for Malta’s Individual Investors Program, a citizenship-in-exchange-for-investment scheme, from financial and business advisory services firm Nexia BT. On November 11, police released former Minister Konrad Mizzi and Schembri following fresh interrogations by police investigating financial crimes and money laundering. Both are reportedly still under investigation but have not yet been formally charged.

Financial Disclosure: Government officials are subject to financial disclosure laws, and declarations are available to the public. Courts can compel disclosure from officials not complying with the regulation.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views. In September the NGOs Aditus and JRS claimed the government did not allow their representatives access to migrant detention centers. The NGOs claimed the government gave no formal explanation for its actions but noted access had been restricted since the beginning of COVID-19.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The ombudsman is empowered to investigate complaints about the activities of governmental bodies, including activities affecting human rights and problems involving prisoners and detainees. The president appoints the ombudsman with the consent of two-thirds of the House of Representatives. The ombudsman investigates complaints only when administrative or judicial remedies are not available. The ombudsman had adequate resources, operated independently, and was effective. In responding to complaints, the ombudsman submits recommendations to the public entity responsible for addressing the complainant’s grievance. The ombudsman has no power to impose or compel a remedy, but relevant public bodies accepted most of the ombudsman’s recommendations.

During the summer, reform legislation amended the laws which regulate the Office of the Ombudsman, including adding the process for appointing the ombudsman to the constitution, which now requires the president to appoint an ombudsman in accordance with a resolution supported by two-thirds of the parliament.

The House of Representatives’ Standing Committees on Foreign and European Affairs and on Social Affairs were responsible for human rights matters. The committees met regularly and normally held open hearings, except when they closed a hearing for national security reasons. For the most part, the committees had a reputation for independence, integrity, credibility, and effectiveness, with legislation enacted in the areas under their purview enjoying widespread public support.

The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality and the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities operated effectively and independently with adequate resources and oversaw human rights matters related to gender equality and disabilities. The prime minister, on the advice of or in consultation with the minister responsible for each entity, appoints members to these commissions, who serve for terms of two and three years, respectively. They may be reappointed at the end of their term.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offense, and the government effectively prosecuted such crimes. In 2019 the government adopted a law to broaden the definition of rape and increased the sentence to 12 years with added penalties in aggravated circumstances. Through July, one person faced rape charges in court, while seven faced charges for nonconsensual acts of a sexual nature.

The law criminalizes domestic violence and treats the offense as an aggravating circumstance of other crimes such as bodily harm, rape, and harassment, and the government generally enforced the laws prohibiting it. Penalties ranged from three months to 20 years in prison. Through September police had brought no new cases related to domestic violence. Several previous cases were pending. In February the government amended the criminal code to strengthen the provisions relating to gender-based violence and domestic violence.

On October 1, the police force created a Gender Based Domestic Violence Unit under the Vice Squad and based at the police general headquarters. The unit, which includes three police inspectors and 18 staff members, is solely dedicated to addressing domestic violence problems and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Several voluntary organizations supported victims of domestic violence and all forms of gender-based violence. A formal hotline assisted victims of abuse through counseling and shelter referrals. The Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity was responsible for a government-supported shelter for women and children. The government also provided financial support to other shelters, including those operated by the Roman Catholic Church.

Sexual Harassment: The criminal code makes sexual harassment punishable by a monetary fine, up to two years’ imprisonment, or both. A separate legal provision makes sexual harassment at the workplace punishable by a fine, imprisonment of not more than six months, or both. As of September, the Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) had received no allegations of sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals generally have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and have access to the information and some of the means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Cultural barriers and government policies adversely affected access to contraception. Skilled and publicly funded health attendants were available during pregnancy and childbirth. The government provided limited access to sexual and reproductive health services for victims of sexual violence. The country has a full ban on abortions, with no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape, incest, or when a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life or health.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including in matters related to family, religious, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance laws. Redress in the courts is available for gender discrimination, and the government enforced the law effectively. Although women have the same legal status as men, they experienced discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.).

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived by birth when either parent is a citizen, irrespective of the place of birth. The law allows transmission of citizenship by a grandparent or other relative in certain circumstances. The government registered births immediately.

Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse which authorities enforced. Between January and September, the police Vice Squad received four reports of child neglect.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18, although persons between the ages of 16 and 18 may marry with the consent of parents, legal guardians, or courts.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities generally enforced the law. The production of child pornography is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment for five to 12 years. Possession of child pornography is punishable by imprisonment of three to four years. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16.

Rape of an underage person is punishable by sentences of six to 20 years. As of September, no persons were charged for sexual abuse of minors.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish community numbered approximately 200 persons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law protects the rights of persons with disabilities and prohibits both the public and private sectors from discriminating against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government effectively enforced these provisions. Authorities are responsible to take action to investigate cases of violence or abuse against persons with disabilities. The law requires accessibility to buildings, information, and communication. While the government made efforts to ensure accessibility, many historical buildings remained inaccessible due to limited structural adaptability.

From January to September, the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability opened 375 new cases of alleged discrimination related to employment, education, housing, access, provision of goods and services, health, and other areas.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The constitution and law prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics, including discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services, including health care. The government enforced the laws.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the rights of most workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. A trade union can register an industrial dispute with an employer, at which point the trade union enters into negotiations with the employer. In the absence of an agreement, both parties are free to resort to industrial action. The trade union can take industrial actions, which may include slowdowns, wildcat strikes, work-to-rule, strike action for a defined period of time or any other industrial action which the union may deem necessary. The employer may use a “lockout” to protect its interests.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for the reinstatement of unfairly dismissed workers, including for legal, nonviolent union activity. Workers have a right to seek redress for antiunion dismissals, although procedures to seek such redress were unclear for certain categories of public sector workers. There were no reports that workers were dismissed for union activities.

Members of the military and law enforcement personnel may join a registered trade union, but the law prohibits strikes by this category of workers. The law does not explicitly prohibit acts of interference by worker or employer organizations in one another’s activities. According to the International Labor Organization, compulsory arbitration continues to limit collective bargaining rights. Arbitration did not take place during the year.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. The courts handed down prescribed fines to perpetrators. Administrative and judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

Both the government and employers generally respected these rights, and workers freely exercised them during the year. There were no reports of antiunion discrimination or other forms of employer interference in union activities. Trade unions and employers’ organizations may both refer a dispute to the Industrial Tribunal, but it was customary that, until the tribunal decides on an award, both parties generally refrain from taking further action.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The constitution prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government took steps to investigate complaints, and to prevent and eliminate forced labor. The processing of cases through the courts, however, was slow. Three labor trafficking prosecutions initiated in 2014 remain pending. The law prescribes penalties of imprisonment for forced labor violations; such penalties were commensurate with penalties for human trafficking and kidnapping. There were reports of men and women in bonded labor and domestic servitude. Many victims of labor trafficking borrowed large sums of money to travel to Malta where they were recruited for certain work and salary. In reality, however, terms of their employment fell short of promises, and the borrowed money was used to keep the victims enslaved. Both foreign domestic workers and irregular migrant workers were vulnerable to forced labor in various sectors that included cleaning, construction, and caring.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor as well as employment of children younger than 16 in all sectors. The director general for educational services in the Ministry of Education and Employment may grant an exemption for employment only after determining that it would not harm the health or normal development of the minor. While no legal work is specifically restricted for minors, children granted an exemption may work up to 40 hours per week. Children are not allowed, however, to carry out any night duties or perform work that could be regarded as harmful, damaging, or dangerous to a young person. Minors granted an exemption to work in certain areas such as manufacturing, heavy plant machinery, and construction are required to work under supervision.

The government generally enforced the law in most formal sectors of the economy. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Jobs Plus, a government entity under the Ministry for Education and Employment that is responsible for labor and employment matters, allowed summer employment of underage youth in businesses operated by their families.

No assessment was available on the effectiveness with which Jobs Plus monitored the unregistered employment of children as domestic employees and restaurant workers.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in any form of employment and occupation. The government generally enforced the law effectively, although many foreign workers, including migrants, worked in dangerous, unsanitary jobs, with low social status and little prospect of improvement in their employment conditions. Up to December 2019, the population included more than 65,000 registered foreign workers. Of these, approximately 31,000 were nationals of mainly Arab, African, Asian, and East European countries. The law prohibits discrimination based on race as well as racial hatred. There were no reported offenses related to violations of the law. Penalties were commensurate with those for crimes related to civil rights, such as election interference. Remedies were available through civil court.

From January to September, the NCPE received one claim of alleged workplace discrimination. Following an investigation the commissioner may either dismiss the complaint or find the complaint warranted. In the latter case, if the complaint constitutes an offense, the commissioner must submit a report to the police commissioner for action. In instances where the complaint did not constitute an actionable offense, the NCPE followed the law and undertook steps to investigate the cases and refer them to police or mediate to ensure provision of redress as appropriate.

While women constituted a growing proportion of graduates of higher education and of the workforce, they remained underrepresented in management and generally earned less than their male counterparts. Eurostat reports showed the gender pay gap in 2018, the most recent period for which data was available, was 11.7 percent. In 2018 labor force participation by women was 64 percent, compared with 86 percent for men.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The country had a national weekly minimum wage that was above the poverty income level. The government effectively enforced the minimum wage. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud, and they were imposed on employers who breached the law. Cases mostly involved third country nationals. The law mandates a standard workweek of 40 hours, but the norm was 43 or 45 hours in certain occupations such as in health care, airport services, and civil protective services. The law provides for paid annual holidays (i.e., government holidays) and paid annual leave. The law prohibits excessive compulsory overtime, and employers cannot oblige employees to work more than 48 hours per week, inclusive of overtime.

The government sets occupational safety and health standards, and such standards were current and appropriate for the main industries in the country. Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations dangerous to health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. The employer is responsible for ensuring and implementing safety measures at the workplace.

The Ministry of Education and Employment generally enforced minimum wage and hours of work requirements effectively in the formal economy and penalties for violations were commensurate with those for crimes like negligence. The Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA), a government entity composed of representatives of the government, unions, and employers, conducted regular inspections at worksites and cited a number of offenders. Nevertheless, enforcement of health and safety standards continued to be inconsistent. The number of labor inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. In an audit report in June, which followed up on an earlier analysis on OHSA’s operations, the National Audit Office noted that, among other shortcomings, OHSA’s lack of an adequate management information system inhibited its efficiency and ability to conduct effective inspections in the construction industry. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and to initiate sanctions, including stopping work they deem to be unsafe.

Workers in the informal economy did not have the same protection as formal workers, but they could file complaints against companies that failed to provide a safe work environment. Many workers, however, were unaware of their rights and social welfare programs, and avoided state-run agencies over fear of being detained or deported based on their immigration status or lack of a work permit.

Reports of abuse of migrants attracted by the country’s unskilled labor shortage, including health and safety matters, workers found living in substandard conditions, and low wages, continued during the year. Authorities did not stringently enforce standards in the informal economy, which consisted of approximately 5 percent of the workforce and encompassed various sectors of working society, including day laborers and self-employed individuals. OHSA imposed fines on companies that did not comply with minimum safety standards in the formal economy and, to a lesser extent, the informal economy.

The National Statistics Office reported that between January and June, nonfatal accidents at the workplace decreased by 29.9 percent when compared to the same period in 2019. There were three reported fatal accidents in the first half of 2020. Industrial accidents occurred mostly in the construction, manufacturing, transportation, and storage sectors. The National Statistics Office reported OHSA’s most recent findings of three fatalities from January to June. Although the government continued to report steady progress in improving working conditions, authorities conceded that unsafe conditions remained.

Irregular migrant workers, who made up a small but growing percentage of the workforce, worked in some cases under conditions that did not meet the government’s minimum standards for employment. The Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers, in coordination with Jobs Plus, which is administered by the government, organized informational programs to help individuals pursue employment and obtain work permits.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Executive Summary

Saint Kitts and Nevis is a multiparty parliamentary democracy and federation. The prime minister is the head of government. The United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, represented by a governor general. The constitution provides the smaller island of Nevis considerable powers of self-governance under a premier. In national elections on June 5, Team Unity, a coalition of three political parties, won nine of the 11 elected seats in the legislature. Team Unity leader Timothy Harris was reselected prime minister for a second term. A Caribbean Community observation mission assessed that “the voters were able to cast their ballots without intimidation or fear and that the results of the 5 June 2020 General Elections reflect the will of the people of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.”

The security forces consist of a police force, which includes the paramilitary Special Services Unit, a drug unit, the Special Victims Unit, the Office of Professional Standards, and a white-collar crimes unit. These forces are responsible for internal security, including migration and border enforcement. In addition there is a coast guard and a small defense force. The military and police report to the Ministry of National Security, which is under the prime minister’s jurisdiction. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were no reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

Significant human rights issues included criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct between men, although the law was not enforced during the year.

The government had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish officials who abused human rights. There were no reports of prosecutions or arrests of government officials for human rights violations.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The prison was slightly overcrowded, and facilities were austere.

Physical Conditions: The country has two prisons with a total capacity of 160 inmates. The total prison population on St. Kitts was 180 in September, including pretrial detainees who were confined with convicted prisoners. Most prisoners had beds, although some slept on blankets on the floor. Inmates between ages 16 and 21 were held with adult prisoners.

Administration: Authorities generally investigated credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: Authorities generally permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, although there were no known visits during the year.

Improvements: During the year authorities repainted and renovated some cells and installed new air-conditioning units. Barracks were constructed for staff.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Police may arrest a person without a warrant, based on the suspicion of criminal activity. The law requires that detained persons be charged within 72 hours or be released. If detainees are charged, authorities must bring them before a court within 72 hours of detention. There was a functioning bail system. Detainees have prompt access to a lawyer of their choice or to a lawyer provided by the state. The government provides free defense counsel to indigent defendants only in capital cases. There is a private legal-aid program to provide legal assistance to indigent defendants. Authorities permitted family members, attorneys, and clergy to visit prisoners once per month and to visit those in pretrial confinement once per week.

Authorities remand persons accused of serious offenses to custody to await trial. They release those accused of minor infractions on their own recognizance or on bail with sureties.

Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detainees were 30 percent of the prison population. The length of time a person was held in pretrial detention varied. The government did not report on the average length of pretrial detention. Nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives, however, reported pretrial detentions of six to nine months for High Court (serious offenses) cases, while noting that the Magistrate Court (for less serious cases) remained backlogged for years.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. There is a presumption of innocence. Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges and to have a fair and public trial without undue delay. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial and to consult an attorney of their choice in a timely manner. Defendants have adequate time to prepare a defense. Defendants have free access to an interpreter. Defendants may question or confront witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have a right to appeal.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There is an independent and impartial judiciary for civil matters. Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations through domestic courts and the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judicial system, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: In May the opposition St. Kitts and Nevis Labor Party (SKNLP) filed an injunction against the government-owned media house, ZIZ Broadcasting Corporation, claiming ZIZ gave an unfair advantage to the political parties in the government. The SKNLP later withdrew its injunction following a public commitment by ZIZ to provide balanced election coverage.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Civil servants are restricted from participating in protests.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

Information on the government’s cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was unavailable.

Access to Asylum: While the law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees. There were no requests for asylum reported during the year.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. Voters elect 11 members of the National Assembly, and the governor general appoints a three-person senate: two on the recommendation of the prime minister and one on the recommendation of the opposition leader.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Team Unity, a coalition of the People’s Action Movement and the People’s Labor Party in St. Kitts, and the Concerned Citizens Movement in Nevis, won nine of the 11 elected seats in the legislature in June 5 national elections. Team Unity leader Timothy Harris was reselected prime minister for a second term. The opposition SKNLP won two seats in the June general election.

Five unsuccessful SKNLP candidates filed petitions in the High Court challenging the results of the June 5 general elections in the constituencies in which they ran. Citing a lack of independent observers, the SKNLP leader alleged the government had an unfair political advantage as the elections were held during a COVID-19-related state of emergency. On May 27, the government revoked a May 19 invitation for election observers from the Organization of American States, citing a mandatory 14-day COVID-19 quarantine requirement. Three independent observers from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), however, were able to travel to the country. The CARICOM observation mission assessed that “the voters were able to cast their ballots without intimidation or fear and that the results of the 5 June 2020 General Elections reflect the will of the people of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.”

The island of Nevis exercises considerable self-governance with its own premier and legislature, and it has the right to secede from the federation. There were no local elections during the year.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. The first woman to lead a political party in the country was elected president of the Nevis Reformation Party on September 13.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively.

Corruption: Media and private citizens reported government corruption was occasionally a problem. Citizens expressed concern about the lack of financial oversight of revenues generated by the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program. The government introduced security measures in 2018 to make the CBI process more transparent, and it began vetting investors. The government did not publicize the number of passports issued through CBI or the nationalities of the passport holders.

Financial Disclosure: Public officials are not subject to financial disclosure laws. The Financial Intelligence Unit and the police white-collar crime unit investigated reports of suspicious financial transactions, but these reports were not available to the public.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

The country had a small number of domestic human rights groups that generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Ministry of Health maintained a human rights desk to monitor discrimination and other human rights abuses beyond the health sector.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law classifies sexual violence, rape, and incest as serious offenses, protects victims of domestic violence, and establishes penalties for perpetrators. The government enforced the law. The law prohibits rape of women but does not address spousal rape. The law utilizes an “unnatural offenses” statute to address male rape.

Court cases and anecdotal evidence suggested that rape, including spousal rape, was a problem. Penalties for rape range from two years’ imprisonment for incest between minors to life imprisonment. Indecent assault has a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.

Violence against women was a serious and underreported problem. The law criminalizes domestic violence, including emotional abuse, and provides for a fine or six months in prison. The government enforced the law. Advocates indicated they believed the true number of incidences was likely higher than reported but that many victims were reluctant to file reports due to the belief that they would not be protected or that their abusers would not be prosecuted.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment cases are prosecuted under the Protection of Employment Act. The press reported that sexual harassment occurred in the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and had access to the information and the means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.

Contraception was widely available. There were no legal or social barriers to accessing contraception, but some religious beliefs and cultural barriers limited its usage.

Survivors of sexual violence could access services from any public hospital. Various ministries, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Legal Affairs and Justice, and the Ministry of Community Development, Gender Affairs, and Social Services, worked together to assist victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men except in the labor sector, where women are legally restricted from working in some industries, including mining, construction, factories, energy, and water. The law requires equal remuneration, and women and men generally received equal salaries for comparable jobs. The government effectively enforced the law. Women had equal access to leadership roles in the private and public sectors.

Children

Birth Registration: Children acquire citizenship by birth in the country, and all children are registered at birth. Children born abroad to citizen parents may be registered by either parent.

Child Abuse: Child abuse is illegal but was a problem. According to the government, neglect was the most common form of abuse, while physical abuse, including sexual molestation, also remained prevalent.

In child abuse cases, the law allows children to testify against their alleged attackers using remote technologies such as Skype. Other solutions, such as placing a physical barrier in the courtroom, were also employed to protect victims. The Ministry of Social Services and the Ministry of Education collaborated on programs to curb child abuse, including modifying the primary school curriculum to include information on child abuse and designating November as Child Abuse Awareness Month.

The St. Christopher Children’s Home served abused and neglected children; it received funding and logistical support from the government.

The government offered counseling for both adult and child victims of abuse. Additionally, the government developed a media campaign to help athletic coaches, parents, and students recognize abuse. The government maintained a program to provide youth and their families with life skills, counseling, parenting skills, and mentorship to reduce abuse.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for both men and women. Underage marriage was rare.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, and it was generally enforced. Child pornography is illegal and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. NGO representatives reported that sexual exploitation and molestation of children were problems. NGO representatives also reported that adolescent transactional sex was an occasional problem. The age of consent for sexual relations is 16. Having sexual relations with children younger than age 16 is illegal.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was no organized Jewish community, and members of the Jewish faith reported there were no anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

There were no confirmed reports during the year that St. Kitts and Nevis was a source, destination, or transit country for victims of human trafficking; however, there were allegations of such activity.

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities. Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination, particularly with access to buildings and public transportation. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, but it was not consistently enforced. Children with disabilities attended school, although some parents of students with disabilities preferred to have their child stay at home. There was a specialized school for students with disabilities. Many local schools accommodated students with physical disabilities.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct among men under an “unnatural offenses” statute that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Top government officials made public statements acknowledging that sexual orientation is a private matter and that all citizens have equal rights under the law. There were no reports the government enforced the law. No laws prohibit discrimination against a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Officials stated the government “has no business in people’s bedrooms”; however, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons reported they did not feel safe engaging in public displays of affection. The government stated it received no reports of violence or discrimination based on sexual orientation, but some observers suggested there was underreporting due to negative societal attitudes.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

The law prohibits discrimination based on a person’s HIV status; however, societal discrimination occurred against persons with HIV or AIDS. The Ministry of Labor enforced a specific antidiscrimination policy covering HIV and AIDS in the workplace.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

Labor laws and procedures are the same in St. Kitts and in Nevis.

The law provides for the right to form and join independent unions or staff associations. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were generally respected in practice. The law permits police, civil servants, hotels, construction workers, and small businesses to organize staff associations. Staff associations do not have bargaining powers but are used to network and develop professional standards. A union representing more than 50 percent of the employees at a company may apply for the company to recognize the union for collective bargaining. Companies generally recognized the establishment of a union if a majority of its workers voted in favor of organizing the union, but the companies are not legally obliged to do so.

In practice, but not by law, there were restrictions on strikes by workers who provide essential services, such as police and civil servants. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination but does not require employers found guilty of such discrimination to rehire employees fired for union activities. The International Labor Organization provided technical assistance to the government in labor law reform, labor administration, employment services, labor inspection, and occupational safety and health.

The government effectively enforced applicable laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. The Ministry of Labor provided employers with training on their rights and responsibilities.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The constitution prohibits slavery, servitude, and forced labor. The government did not report any cases of involuntary servitude. The government effectively enforced applicable laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, and a Special Victims Unit, led by the Child Protection Services and police, investigated violations. The law sets the minimum age for work at 16. Prohibitions do not apply to family businesses. Children ages 16 and 17 have the same legal protections from dangerous work conditions as all workers. The law permits children from the ages of 16 to 18 to work regular hours. Employment of children from the ages of 16 to 18 in certain industries related to the hotel and entertainment sectors is restricted. The government effectively enforced the applicable laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for analogous crimes. Most children younger than age 16 with jobs worked after school in shops and supermarkets or did light work in the informal sector.

The Ministry of Labor relied heavily on school truancy officers and the Community Affairs Division to monitor compliance with child labor laws, which they did effectively. The ministry reported that investigations were frequent and that violators were referred to the Social Security Office for enforcement.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, gender, language, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, sexual orientation, gender identity, or social status. The law stipulates any employer who wrongfully terminates an employee can be fined to cover the cost of employee benefits. The government effectively enforced discrimination laws and regulations, and penalties were commensurate to those for laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage was above the estimated poverty income level. The law does not prohibit excessive or compulsory overtime, but policy calls for employers to inform employees if they have to work overtime. Although not required by law, workers generally received at least one 24-hour rest period per week.

The government sets occupational safety and health (OSH) standards that were outdated but appropriate for the country’s main industries. Workers could remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. The law also requires employers to report accidents and dangerous incidents. The government effectively enforced OSH laws, and penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. Labor inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and make recommendations.

The Labor Commission settles disputes over OSH conditions. The office conducts regular workplace inspections. Violators are subject to fines, and repeat offenders are subject to prosecution. The commission undertook wage inspections and special investigations when it received complaints. If the commission found that employers violated wage regulations, penalties were generally sufficient to encourage compliance. The government reported there were no violations resulting in arrests or prosecutions.

The Ministry of Labor relied primarily on worker complaints to trigger inspections of facilities using informal labor. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, labor inspectors were part of the National COVID-19 Compliance Task Force. The Social Security Office was responsible for registering informal workers and businesses.

Saint Lucia

Executive Summary

Saint Lucia is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. In free and fair elections in 2016, the United Workers Party won 11 of the 17 seats in the House of Assembly, defeating the previously ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party. Allen Chastanet, leader of the winning party, was prime minister.

The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force has responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country. A new agency, the Border Control Agency, was established to enforce immigration, maritime, and customs laws. Both entities report separately to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Justice, and National Security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were no reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

Significant human rights issues included violence against suspects and prisoners by police and prison officers and criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults, although the law was not enforced.

The government took steps to prosecute officials and employees who committed abuses.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

In August prosecutors charged a police officer with murder following an investigation into accusations of the unlawful killing of a suspect in 2018.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, but prisoners and suspects continued to complain of physical abuse by police and prison officers.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces. Although the government launched independent inquiries into allegations of abuse, the limited transparency into official investigations sometimes created a perception among civil society and government officials of impunity for the accused officers.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns. Overcrowding was a problem.

Physical Conditions: The Bordelais Correctional Facility experienced overcrowding, with 549 prisoners held in a prison with a maximum capacity of 500. Overcrowding was exacerbated by COVID-19, which required the government to turn one of the prison’s units into a quarantine facility for incoming prisoners. Prisoners reportedly lacked free access to clean drinking water.

Administration: Authorities conducted investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment. A five-member board of visiting justices reviewed complaints from prisoners.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. Prison monitoring was typically done by local, regional, and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), although no independent visits occurred during the year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Improvements: During the year prison officials installed four electricity regulators to reduce electricity fluctuations and damage to the prison’s equipment.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The constitution stipulates authorities must apprehend persons openly with warrants issued by a judicial authority. The law requires a court hearing within 72 hours of detention. Authorities allowed detainees prompt access to counsel and family. There was a functioning bail system.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention was a significant problem. Those charged with serious crimes often spent between six months and six years in pretrial detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. Defendants have the right to a presumption of innocence, prompt and detailed information about charges, and a fair and public trial without undue delay. They have the right to be present at their own trial; communicate with an attorney of their choice; have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense; receive free assistance of an interpreter as needed; confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence; not be compelled to testify or confess guilt; and appeal. Attorneys are provided at public expense to defendants who cannot pay only if the charge is murder.

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. Individuals and organizations cannot appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights courts for a binding decision. Individuals and organizations may present petitions to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern. The government assisted the safe, voluntary return of refugees to their home countries.

Access to Asylum: The law does not specifically provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has not established a system for providing protection to refugees.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: In 2016 the United Workers Party (UWP) defeated the Saint Lucia Labour Party, winning 11 of 17 parliamentary seats, and UWP party leader Allen Chastanet became prime minister. The previous administration did not invite international election observation missions but permitted local election observers.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented these laws, but not always effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: There were no developments in any major corruption cases.

Financial Disclosure: High-level government officials, including elected officials, must make an annual disclosure of their financial assets to the Integrity Commission, a constitutionally established entity. While authorities do not publicize the disclosure reports filed by individuals, the commission submits a report to parliament each year. The commission publishes the names of noncompliant officials in the newspaper, and fines of up to 50,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($18,500) and up to five years’ imprisonment can be imposed for failing to file the disclosure.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Domestic human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were generally cooperative and responsive to their views.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men or women, which is punishable by 14 years’ to life imprisonment. The law criminalizes spousal rape only when a couple is divorced or separated or when there is a protection order from the Family Court. Authorities generally enforced the law. Roungement–the practice of parents accepting monetary compensation to settle rape and sexual assault cases out of court–is prohibited by law, but it was rarely prosecuted and was commonly practiced.

The law prohibits sexual assault; nevertheless, it was a problem. NGOs reported difficulties obtaining data from the government on the number of sexual cases reported. High-level government officials supported strengthening family-law legislation and avenues of recourse for victims of gender-based violence.

Domestic violence was also a significant problem, and NGOs reported a surge in domestic violence cases during the country’s mandatory COVID-19 shutdown. NGOs reported 47 cases of gender-based violence as of October, three of which were brought to trial; the remaining cases were waiting to be prosecuted in what NGOs described as an “extremely slow” judicial system. While police were willing to arrest offenders, the government prosecuted crimes of violence against women only when the victim pressed charges. The Gender Relations Department stated its officers lacked training in trauma-specific interview techniques, which negatively affected their evidence-collection skills.

The law provides penalties for domestic violence ranging from five years’ to life imprisonment, and the law was generally enforced. Shelters, a hotline, police training, including NGO-conducted training in February, and detailed national policies for managing domestic violence were available, but victims lacking financial security were often reluctant to remove themselves from abusive environments. Police also faced problems such as a lack of transportation, which at times prevented them from responding to calls in a timely manner. The NGO Saint Lucia Crisis Center continued to receive monthly government assistance and maintained a facility for female victims of domestic violence and their children and a hotline for support, but the NGO reported that funding was insufficient to meet the needs of all victims seeking assistance. The Department of Gender Relations operated a residential facility for victims of domestic abuse, the Women’s Support Center, which an NGO reported had the capacity to house only five victims at any given time.

The Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations, and Sustainable Development assisted victims. Authorities referred most cases to a counselor, and police facilitated the issuance of court protection orders in several cases. The Department of Gender Relations operated several gender-based violence prevention programs in schools and community-based groups.

NGOs reported that challenges facing victims of abuse included a lack of adequate shelters, an extensive court case backlog, a lack of capacity to prosecute, a lack of technical resources at the forensic laboratory, unfriendly social services agencies, and insufficient victim assistance training for police officers.

The Family Court hears cases of domestic violence and crimes against women and children. The court can issue a protection order prohibiting an abuser from entering or remaining in the residence of a specified person. The court remands perpetrators to an intervention program for rehabilitation. The court employed full-time social workers to assist victims of domestic violence.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, but sexual harassment remained a problem, and government enforcement was not an effective deterrent. Most cases of sexual harassment were handled in the workplace rather than prosecuted under the law.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. All individuals have the right to manage their reproductive health and had access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.

Contraception was widely available for adults. There were no legal or social barriers to accessing contraception, but some religious beliefs and cultural barriers limited its usage.

There were no government policies or legal, social, or cultural barriers that adversely affected access to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth. The maternal death rate for 2017 was 117 deaths per 100,000 live births, which was the latest available information.

Survivors of sexual violence could access services from any of the public hospitals and wellness centers and from the Saint Lucia Planned Parenthood Association. Various divisions of the government worked together to assist victims of sexual and gender-based violence, including through the Ministry of Health’s Department of Social Services, the Ministry of Education’s Department of Gender Relations, and the Special Victims Unit of the police.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The law generally provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men. The law requires equal pay for equal work. Women were underrepresented in the labor force, had higher levels of unemployment than men, and sometimes received lower pay or faced additional informal hurdles gaining access to credit. The law provides for equal treatment for women concerning family property, nationality, and inheritance. The foreign husband of a Saint Lucian woman does not automatically receive Saint Lucian citizenship, but the foreign wife of a Saint Lucian man does.

Children

Birth Registration: Children receive citizenship by birth to a parent with citizenship. Authorities provided birth certificates without undue administrative delay.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits all forms of child abuse, but child abuse remained a problem. The Department of Human Services and Family Affairs handled cases of sexual abuse, physical abuse, abandonment, and psychological abuse. Although the government condemned the practice, parents of sexually abused children sometimes declined to press sexual assault charges against the abuser in exchange for the abuser’s financial contributions toward the welfare of the victim. Nonetheless, courts heard some child sexual abuse cases, convicted offenders, and sentenced them.

The human services division provided services to victims of child abuse, including providing a home for severely abused and neglected children, counseling, facilitating medical intervention, finding foster care, providing family support services, and supporting the child while the child was cooperating with police and attending court.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for men and women, but 16 with parental consent.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Laws on sexual offenses cover rape, unlawful sexual contact, and unlawful sexual intercourse with children younger than age 16. The age of consent is 16, but a consent defense may be cited if the victim is between ages 12 and 16. The law prohibits sex trafficking of children younger than 18; however, it does not criminally prohibit the use or offering of children for commercial sexual exploitation. No separate law defines or specifically prohibits child pornography. The government enforced the law, including through a police team that focused solely on sexual crimes, which includes sexual crimes involving children.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

There was a small organized Jewish community, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not prohibit discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Government regulations require access for persons with disabilities to all public buildings, but only a few government buildings had access ramps. Persons with disabilities have the right to vote, but many polling stations were inaccessible for mobility-impaired voters. The Ministry of Health operated a community-based rehabilitation program in residents’ homes.

Children with physical and visual disabilities were sometimes mainstreamed into the wider student population. There were schools available for persons with developmental disabilities and for children who were hard of hearing, deaf, blind, or otherwise visually impaired. Children with disabilities faced barriers in education, and there were few employment opportunities for adults with disabilities.

While there were no reports of discrimination, civil society representatives reported difficulty obtaining data on discrimination.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Civil society representatives reported widespread societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. A resort reportedly denied a request by an LGBTI couple to hold their wedding there. Some openly LGBTI persons faced verbal harassment and at times physical abuse, including a reported public attack on a gay man walking down the street. Civil society groups reported LGBTI persons were forced to leave public buses, denied jobs or left jobs due to a hostile work environment, and harassed by members of the public.

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex relations and consensual same-sex intercourse between men with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Attempted consensual same-sex sexual intercourse between men is punishable by five years in prison. The law was not enforced in practice.

The law does not extend antidiscrimination protections to LGBTI persons based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics.

NGOs reported there was some stigma and discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. Civil society reported health-care workers occasionally did not maintain appropriate patient confidentiality with respect to HIV/AIDS status.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law specifies the right of most workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law also prohibits antiunion discrimination, and workers fired for union activity have the right to reinstatement. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. The government did not effectively enforce the law.

The law places restrictions on the right to strike and bargain collectively by members of the police, corrections service, fire department, health service, and utilities (electricity, water, and telecommunications) on the grounds these organizations provide “essential services.” These workers must give 30 days’ notice before striking. Once workers have given notice, authorities usually refer the matter to an ad hoc labor tribunal set up under the Essential Services Act. The government selects tribunal members, following rules to ensure tripartite representation. These ad hoc tribunals try to resolve disputes through mandatory arbitration.

The government generally respected freedom of association, while employers generally respected the right to collective bargaining. Workers exercised the right to strike and bargain collectively.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced labor and offers protection from slavery and forced labor; however, forced labor is not criminally prohibited unless it results from human trafficking. The government did not have written procedures to guide officials on the proactive identification and referral of trafficking victims.

The International Labor Organization noted with concern that the law allows for prisoners to be hired out to or placed at the disposal of private individuals, companies, and associations.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

Not all of the worst forms of child labor are prohibited. Although the criminal code prohibits the use of children in some illicit activities, such as prostitution, the use, procuring, or offering of a child younger than age 18 for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs, is not criminally prohibited. The law provides for a minimum legal working age of 15 once a child has finished the school year. The minimum legal age for industrial work is 18. The law provides special protections for workers younger than age 18 regarding working conditions, and it prohibits hazardous work. There are no specific restrictions on working hours for those younger than 18. There is no comprehensive list of what constitutes hazardous work; however, the Occupational Health and Safety Act prohibits children younger than 18 from working in industrial settings, including using machinery and working in extreme temperatures. Children ages 15 to 17 require a parent’s permission to work.

The Ministry of Infrastructure, Ports, Energy, and Labour is responsible for enforcing statutes that regulate child labor. The penalties in theory were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping, and these laws were not effectively enforced.

There were no formal reports of violations of child labor laws, and the government did not report any investigations (see section 6, Children). Nevertheless, government officials, civil society, and educators suspect that children from economically disadvantaged families were vulnerable to unorganized commercial sexual exploitation and engaged in sexual activity in exchange for goods or services.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law and regulations prohibit discrimination regarding race, skin color, sex, religion, national extraction, social origin, ethnic origin, political opinion or affiliation, age, disability, serious family responsibility, pregnancy, marital status, and HIV/AIDS status. The law prohibits discrimination regarding gender identity. The law requires that men and women receive equal pay for equal work. In addition the law sets different rates of severance pay for men and women. The law prohibits termination of employment for sexual orientation. Civil society groups received reports of LGBTI persons being denied jobs or leaving jobs due to a hostile work environment. There are no specific penalties for discrimination, so penalties for discrimination are covered under the general penalties section of the labor code. The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws. Penalties were commensurate with laws related to civil rights.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law provides for a minimum wage for some sectors, including office clerks, shop assistants, and messengers. On average the sector-specific minimum wages were below the official poverty level.

The legislated workweek is 40 hours, with a maximum of eight hours per day. Special legislation covers work hours for shop assistants, agricultural workers, domestic workers, and industrial workers. Labor laws, including occupational health and safety standards, apply to all workers whether in the formal or informal sector.

The labor code provides penalties which were not commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud. The government effectively enforced the law. The Ministry of Infrastructure, Ports, Energy, and Labour is charged with monitoring violations of labor law. Employers were generally responsive to ministry requests to address labor code violations, and authorities rarely levied fines. Officers effectively monitored compliance with standards governing pensions, terminations, vacation, sick leave, contracts, and hours of work. Inspectors have the authority to initiate sanctions, institute proceedings before the tribunal, or hold informal inquiries when complaints are brought to their notice. There were no reported violations of wage laws, and most categories of workers received wages higher than minimum wage, based on prevailing market conditions.

The government sets occupational safety and health (OSH) standards that are current and appropriate. The number of inspectors was not adequate to enforce compliance. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were not commensurate with those for crimes such as negligence. As of November, one workplace facility was closed for failing to meet OSH standards.

Workers could remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation. The ministry reported workers in energy and construction sectors sometimes faced hazardous working conditions. Officials reported three workplace-related deaths during the year. Most overtime and wage violations occurred in the construction sector. The government does not legally define or collect statistics on the informal economy.

Vanuatu

Executive Summary

Vanuatu is a multiparty parliamentary democracy with a freely elected government. Observers considered the March 19-20 parliamentary election generally free and fair. Parliament elected Bob Loughman as prime minister. The president is head of state. Parliament elected Tallis Obed Moses president in 2017.

The national police maintain internal security. The Vanuatu Mobile Force, a paramilitary police unit, is responsible for external security but also has some domestic-security responsibilities. Both agencies report to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces are not known to have committed abuses.

Significant human rights issues included: serious acts of corruption; lack of investigation of violence against women; and minimal progress in reducing the worst forms of child labor.

The government made efforts to prosecute and punish abuses by officials and had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

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

The constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them. Civilian authorities did not always have effective mechanisms to punish police abuse or corruption but exercised overall control of the force. The law mandates the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate complaints of security force abuses. Additionally the police Professional Standards Unit investigates allegations of ethics violations and misuse of force, and may also prosecute cases in court.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

Foreign assistance designed to address some of the problems confronting the security force continued. Under the Vanuatu Australia Police Project, the number of Australian Federal Police advisors working full time remained at four.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Overcrowding and inadequate sanitary conditions in prisons created harsh conditions.

Physical Conditions: Male and female detainees were held in separate prison facilities. The country has no juvenile prison, so juvenile offenders are remanded to home communities, where tribal elders or in some cases a community justice supervisor oversees the court-appointed sentence. Probation officers regularly check in with the offender, noting compliance with the sentence.

Administration: Authorities conducted investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted visits by media and independent human rights observers. Scheduled visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the New Zealand Department of Corrections were cancelled due to COVID-19.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court, and the government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

A warrant issued by a court is required for an arrest, although police made a small number of arrests without warrants. Authorities generally observed the constitutional provision to inform suspects of the charges against them.

The law outlines the process for remanding alleged offenders in custody. To remand a person in custody requires a valid written warrant from a magistrate or a Supreme Court justice. Warrants typically are valid for 14 days in the first instance, and the court may extend them in writing. In general the Correctional Services Department’s practice was not to accept any detainee into custody without a valid warrant. A system of bail operated effectively, although some persons not granted bail spent lengthy periods in pretrial detention due to judicial inefficiency. Authorities allow detainees prompt access to counsel and family members. The Public Defender’s Office provides free legal counsel to indigent defendants, defined as those who earn less than 50,000 vatu ($450) per year.

Pretrial Detention: Pretrial detainees constituted approximately one-quarter of the prison population. Judges, prosecutors, and police complained about large case backlogs due to a lack of resources and limited numbers of qualified judges and prosecutors. The average length of time spent in remand before a case went to trial was approximately 12 weeks, although it could be longer in the outer islands.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

The constitution provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. The judicial system derives from British common law. Judges conduct trials and render verdicts. The courts uphold constitutional provisions for a presumption of innocence, a prohibition against double jeopardy, a right to counsel, a right to free assistance of an interpreter, a right to question witnesses, a right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, a right to be present at trial, and a right of appeal. The law extends these rights to all defendants.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There is an independent and impartial judiciary for civil matters, including for human rights violations. The government, including police, generally complied with court decisions on human rights violations. Reports continued that police sometimes did not promptly enforce court orders related to domestic violence (see section 6, Women).

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

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press and judiciary and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of speech and press.

Violence and Harassment: According to Freedom House, “elected officials have sometimes been accused of threatening journalists for critical reporting.” For example, in November 2019 the government prevented Dan McGarry, a Canadian citizen, long-time resident, and media director of the country’s largest independent newspaper, the Daily Post, from returning to the country after a trip abroad; the Supreme Court in December 2019 overturned that decision and McGarry did return. McGarry told media that he believed the prime minister was specifically displeased with Daily Post reporting about the government’s cooperation with China to deport six Chinese nationals, four of whom had recently acquired Vanuatu citizenship through a program designed to attract Chinese investment.

Internet Freedom

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution provides for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

The country faced multiple volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, cyclones, and tsunami during the year. In April, Tropical Cyclone Harold displaced 6,218 individuals; they remained housed with host families or at evacuation centers at year’s end. Internally displaced persons complained that it was difficult to earn an income or access food and water in some evacuee camps. Almost half of those displaced were children, who had no regular access to education and were left in vulnerable conditions, with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reporting “child abuse concerns in 22 percent of evacuation centers and 16 percent of host families.”

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, but the government developed an ad hoc system for providing protection to refugees and granted temporary refugee status and asylum to those seeking it while awaiting resettlement by UNHCR.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Despite time and funding constraints faced by the Electoral Commission, international and domestic observers considered the March 19-20 general election free and fair. Voter rolls continued to be problematic and larger than would be expected based on population size, but this situation did not appear to affect results significantly.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties operated without restriction but were institutionally weak, with frequent shifts in political coalitions and unstable parliamentary majorities. Most of the 49 political parties that contested the March election were newly formed.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minority groups in the political process. Traditional attitudes regarding male dominance and customary familial roles, however, hampered women’s participation in political life. No women served in the 52-member parliament, although 18 women contested the March election, an increase from eight in 2016. Women candidates and independent candidates–whether male or female–faced significant hurdles to fundraising, which limited their electoral prospects, according to one report.

The law allows municipal governments to reserve council seats for women for each ward in each municipality, and Port Vila and Luganville have done so. Port Vila has five reserved seats for women out of 14 seats in the municipal council. Luganville has four seats reserved for women out of 13 seats.

A small number of ethnic-minority persons (non-Melanesians) served in parliament.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government made some efforts to implement the law. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, and there were isolated reports of government corruption.

The Office of the Ombudsman and the Auditor General’s Office are key government agencies responsible for combating government corruption.

Corruption: The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law. In July, two senior officials and several line officers from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utility were suspended following accusations that they improperly awarded contracts by failing to adhere to established law and procedures. In August former prime minister and current Member of Parliament Charlot Salwai and three of Salwai’s former cabinet ministers were accused of bribery and corruption for “vote buying” in parliament. In a December ruling, the court acquitted Salwai and his codefendents.

Financial Disclosure: Members of parliament and elected members of provincial governments are subject to a leadership code of conduct specified by law that includes financial disclosure requirements. They must submit annual financial-disclosure reports to the Office of the Ombudsman, which then publishes a list of elected officials who did not comply and informs the public prosecutor who may initiate legal proceedings to hold the official accountable. The Office of the Ombudsman, which investigates those who do not submit reports, confirmed that some officials did not comply with these requirements. Reports are not made available to the public.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: In consultation with other political leaders, the president appoints a government ombudsman to a five-year term. Investigating alleged human rights abuses is among the Office of the Ombudsman’s responsibilities. The office, however, does not have the power to prosecute, and the findings of its investigations are not admissible as evidence in court proceedings. The ombudsman referred cases deemed valid to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for action, but there were few prosecutions.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape–regardless of the victim’s gender–is a crime with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The law does not specifically criminalize spousal rape, but it can be prosecuted under related statutes that cover assault and domestic violence. The law criminalizes domestic violence and seeks to protect the rights of women and children. Violators could face maximum prison terms of five years, a fine, or both. The law also calls for police to issue protection orders for as long as there is a threat of violence.

Police were frequently reluctant to intervene in what they considered domestic matters. There is, however, a “no drop,” evidence-based policy under which police are not supposed to drop reported domestic-violence cases. The Police Academy and the New Zealand government provided training for police in responding to domestic-violence and sexual-assault cases.

Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, was common. According to the most recent survey data available, 60 percent of women in a relationship experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner. According to a 2017 report from Correctional Services, more than 60 percent of prison inmates were charged with sex-related offenses. Most cases, including rape, were not reported to authorities because women, particularly in rural areas, were ignorant of their rights or feared further abuse.

In November the Vanuatu Women’s Center reported that the number of domestic-violence cases surged after the March border closure imposed by COVID-19 travel restrictions, with triple the average number of reports for previous years, adding that there was also much violence between families and their landlords. The center provides telephone counseling, face-to-face counseling, and free legal services to ensure the safety of women and children, with support from the Australian government.

In November, Prime Minister Loughman launched a countrywide government information program to address domestic violence. Also in November the Vanuatu Women’s Center introduced a national toll-free help-line number for free counselling, referral, and support services to women and children survivors of domestic violence. The toll-free line can be accessed on the country’s two network providers.

The Department of Women’s Affairs played a role in implementing family protection. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like the Vanuatu Women’s Center played an important role in educating the public about domestic violence and helping women access the formal justice system, but they lacked sufficient funding to implement their programs fully.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Customary bride-price payments continued and contributed to the perception of male ownership of women.

Sexual Harassment: The law does not prohibit sexual harassment, and it was a problem. Sexual harassment was widespread in the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Individuals have the right to manage their reproductive health and to have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Only a small proportion of women cited a lack of knowledge of contraceptive methods, a lack of access, or cost as the main reason they did not use family planning and contraceptive methods. The government made it a priority under the law to promote gender equality and reduce gender-based violence. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence through provincial hospitals, health centers, dispensaries, and mobile reproductive health outreach clinics.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The constitution provides women the same personal and religious rights as men. Laws regarding marriage, criminal procedures, and employment further enshrine women’s rights as equal to those of men.

Although the law does not prohibit women from owning or inheriting property or land, tradition generally bars women from land ownership or property inheritance.

Women were slowly emerging from a traditional culture characterized by male dominance, but women continued to experience discrimination in access to employment, credit, and pay equity for substantially similar work. The Department of Women’s Affairs worked with regional and international organizations to increase women’s access to the formal justice system and educate women about their rights under the law, holding multiple open workshops throughout the year that coincided with public holidays to encourage participation at the local community level.

Children

Birth Registration: Children born in country to one citizen parent, through either birth or naturalization, are entitled to citizenship. Parents usually registered the birth of a child immediately, unless the birth took place in a very remote village or island. Failure to register does not result in denial of public services.

Education: The government stressed the importance of children’s rights and welfare, but significant problems existed with access to education. Although the government stated its commitment to free and universal education, school fees and difficult geography were barriers to school attendance for some children.

School attendance is not compulsory. In general boys received more education than girls. Although attendance rates were similar in early primary grades, proportionately fewer girls advanced to higher grades. An estimated 50 percent of the population was functionally illiterate.

Child Abuse: The country does not have a legal definition of child abuse, but the law addresses sexual abuse of children and states that parents must protect children from violence within the family setting. The national child protection policy recognizes the government’s responsibility to protect all children from violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect and includes the need to introduce a child protection bill.

NGOs and law-enforcement agencies reported increased complaints of child abuse, incest, and rape of children in recent years. A 2017 UNICEF report stated that eight of 10 children from ages two to four experienced violent discipline at home. It also stated that one in three children experienced severe physical punishment at home and that sexual abuse before the age of 15 affected three of 10 children. The government did little to combat the problem.

In August a former school principal was sentenced to 13 years in prison for sexually abusing three underage children who attended his school. In June a man was sentenced to almost four years in prison for raping an underage girl in April 2019.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal age for marriage is 21 years, although boys as young as 18 and girls as young as 16 may marry with parental permission. In rural areas and outer islands, some children married at younger ages. In 2018 UNICEF reported that approximately 21 percent of children married before age 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law addresses statutory rape, providing a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment if the child is older than 13 but younger than 15, or 14 years’ imprisonment if the child is younger than 13. The law also prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, the sale of children, and the offering or procuring of a child for the purpose of prostitution or pornography. There were no criminal cases dealing with pornography or child sexual exploitation during the year.

The maximum penalty for publishing child pornography is five years’ imprisonment, and for possession it is two years’ imprisonment.

Under the law the age of consensual sex is 16 regardless of sex or sexual orientation. Some children younger than 18 engaged in prostitution.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The country’s Jewish community consisted of a few foreign nationals, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

In 2018, four Bangladeshi nationals were arrested for trafficking 101 Bangladeshi nationals in Vanuatu. At their hearing, all four pleaded not guilty. The trial in the Supreme Court began in November 2019. At year’s end, the case was pending judgment and possible sentencing. Of the 101 victims, 26 remained in country as potential witnesses and 16 provided testimony against their alleged traffickers. The government withdrew its limited financial support for the remaining victims during the year. A small number of the remaining victims were reportedly attempting to return to Bangladesh but faced difficulty finding options due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least one victim made a claim for asylum through UNHCR.

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

No law specifically prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. Although the building code mandates access for persons with disabilities to existing and new facilities, they could not access most buildings.

The government did not effectively implement national policy designed to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Access to services through the Ministry of Health’s mental-health policy was very limited. Schools were generally not accessible to children with disabilities.

The government generally relied upon the traditional extended family and NGOs to provide services and support to persons with disabilities. The high rate of unemployment in the general population, combined with social stigma attached to disabilities, meant few jobs were available to persons with disabilities.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

No laws criminalize sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual conduct, but there were reports of discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI) persons. LGBTI activist group V-Pride Foundation reported the perception within the LGBTI community that police would tolerate violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons; therefore, harassment, discrimination, and criminal acts go unreported. LGBTI groups operated freely, but there are no antidiscrimination laws to protect them.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Traditional beliefs in sorcery fueled violence against persons marginalized in their communities, although there were no documented cases during the year. Women were often targets of opportunity.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, strike, and bargain collectively. This right is not extended to the police force or prison service. While the law does not require union recognition by the employer, it prohibits antiunion discrimination once a union is recognized. Unions are required to register with the government and to submit audited statements of revenue and expenditure to the registrar annually. Unions require government permission to affiliate with international labor federations; the government has not denied any union such permission.

The law prohibits retaliation for legal strikes but does not explicitly require reinstatement for workers fired for union activity. Unions are independent of the government, but there were instances of government interference in union activities. The law requires unions to give 30 days’ notice of intent to strike and to provide a list of the names of potential strikers. A union must also show it has attempted negotiation with the employer and reported the matter to the industrial registrar for possible mediation. The minister of labor may prohibit persons employed in essential services from striking. Under the law a court may find any person who fails to comply with such a prohibition guilty of an offense; similarly, for strikes in nonessential services, courts may also find workers failing to comply with procedural requirements guilty of an offense. Convictions for such offenses may result in an obligation to perform compulsory labor in public prisons.

Complaints from private-sector workers about violations of freedom of association are referred to the Department of Labor for conciliation and arbitration. The Public Service Commission handles complaints of violations from public-sector workers. Complaints of antiunion discrimination must be referred to the Department of Labor. According to the commissioner for labor, the department has a dispute-resolution process to manage these grievances.

The government effectively enforced applicable law without lengthy delays or appeals. Resources were limited, and investigations were generally only carried out following complaints. Penalties for violating the law were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights.

The government and employers respected freedom of association, but the right to collective bargaining was not explicitly laid out in the law.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The constitution and law prohibit all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the law prohibits slavery and human trafficking. The law excludes from the definition of forced labor any work or service that forms part of the national civic obligations of citizens, but the law does not define such work.

The government effectively enforced the law. Penalties for violating the law were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes.

NGOs and trade unions reported on physical violence, debt bondage, withholding of wages, and abusive conditions on foreign-owned, Vanuatu-flagged fishing vessels during the year.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law does not explicitly prohibit all of the worst forms of child labor. The law establishes the minimum age for employment at 14. The law prohibits children younger than 12 from working outside family-owned agricultural production, where many children assisted their parents. Children ages 12 to 13 may perform light domestic or agricultural work if a family member works alongside the child, and agricultural work if the community does it collectively. Children younger than 18 generally may not work on ships; however, with the permission of a labor officer, a child age 15 may work on a ship. Although parliament established a minimum age of 15 for hazardous work, the law does not comply with international standards, because it does not prohibit children ages 15 to 17 from engaging in hazardous work, such as industrial labor and work on ships.

The government did not release enough information related to its enforcement of child-labor law to determine whether the law was effectively enforced. The Department of Labor confirmed there were no reported cases of illegal child labor during the year, and department action to address child labor was limited to informal presentations on the topic. There were no reports of government stopping child-labor activities or imposing administrative barriers. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes.

According to the National Child Protection Policy, the country has no data to determine the nature and prevalence of child labor. The Department of Labor stated, however, that most child workers were involved in logging, which exposed children to hazardous activities including having no proper protective equipment to operate machines, no proper training, and no regular medical checkups. Children were also involved in handling or lifting heavy loads. There were reports of a lack of regular inspection from forestry and other appropriate government agencies to provide appropriate guidance to workers.

There were no credible reports of children employed in agriculture illegally, although legal employment of children in hazardous work could constitute a worst form of child labor. There were reports children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children).

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings .

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The constitution prohibits employment discrimination with respect to race, religion, political opinion, traditional beliefs, place of origin or citizenship, language, or sex.

The government did not effectively enforce prohibitions on employment discrimination against women, which was widespread. The penalties for violation of this prohibition are not commensurate with those for other laws related to civil rights.

Discrimination against women was especially common in promotions to management positions. Women are legally prohibited from working night hours in the same way as men. Persons with disabilities also faced discrimination with respect to employment and occupations. The International Labor Organization noted that legislation allowing for the removal of persons with disabilities from some senior positions appeared to reflect an assumption that persons are incapable of holding such a position if they have any form of disability.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage is above the national poverty income level.

The law provides for a 44-hour maximum workweek, and the total number of hours worked, including overtime, should not exceed 56 hours per week. Workers must receive more than three days’ paid annual holidays. The law provides for a premium of 50 to 75 percent more than the normal rate of pay for overtime work. Penalties for wage and hour violations are not commensurate with those for similar crimes.

The law includes provisions for occupational safety standards, which are up to date and appropriate for the main sectors. Legal provisions on working conditions and safety standards apply equally to foreign workers and citizens in the formal sector. Inspectors have the right to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions. Application of safety and health provisions was inadequate to protect workers engaged in logging, agriculture, construction, and manufacturing. While workers have the legal right to remove themselves from dangerous situations, the government did not protect workers in this situation.

The government did not effectively enforce the wage, overtime, or occupational safety and health law, especially in the informal sector. Penalties for violations of occupational safety and health laws were commensurate with those for similar crimes. The labor commissioner stated that most companies complied with the wage rate and inspectors conducted routine inspections to determine that minimum wages were paid. The number of inspectors was not sufficient to deter violations. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. The government did not receive any formal complaints of violations regarding minimum wage, hours of work, or safety standards during the year.

Many companies in logging, agriculture, construction, and manufacturing did not provide personal safety equipment and standard scaffolding for workers.

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