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TITLE:  SEYCHELLES HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                           
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                     SEYCHELLES


In June 1993, 73 percent of voters approved a new Constitution 
providing for a multiparty system of government, after an open 
bipartisan drafting process.  Both the Seychelles People's 
Progressive Party (SPPF) of President France Albert Rene and 
the Democratic Party (DP) of former President James Mancham 
campaigned actively for the Constitution's adoption.  
Presidential and national assembly elections, which were judged 
free and fair by national and international observers, were 
held on July 23, the first such multiparty elections since Rene 
came to power in a June 1977 military coup.

Rene's party decisively defeated the opposition parties, with 
only one opposition candidate from the DP gaining a directly 
elected seat in the National Assembly.  Due to an additional 
number of seats distributed on the basis of the percentage of 
the total vote, the final composition of the National Assembly 
was 27 SPPF members and 8 opposition members.

The security forces, including about 400 Army personnel, a 
National Guard of undisclosed confidential size, and the armed 
"Police Mobile Unit" of 95 officers, have close ties to the 
ruling party.

Although private enterprise and private property are permitted, 
the public and quasi-public sectors drive the economy.  The 
Government, through the Seychelles Marketing Board, other state 
organizations, and the use of banking regulations, controls the 
importation, licensing, and distribution of virtually all goods 
and services and exercises significant control over all phases 
of the economy.  Tourism is the most important sector, directly 
accounting for over 10 percent of the gross domestic product.

In 1993 Seychelles made substantial progress in respecting the 
rights of its citizens.  The Government became responsive to 
human rights issues and placed considerable political effort 
into reforming governmental institutions to accord with 
international standards of human rights practice.  One 
remaining problem is an excessively legislated regard for the 
"privacy" of public figures, which serves as a veiled threat to 
press freedom.


RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no such killings in 1993.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearance.

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

The Constitution expressly forbids torture, and in 1993 this 
prohibition was respected in practice.  There was one instance 
of police brutality in late 1993 when the police beat up a 
imprisoned juvenile offender.  At year's end an investigation 
was in progress.  There was also one abuse of deadly force, 
when police officers, mistaking a passer-by for an escaped 
convict, shot at his car and severely wounded him.  The 
policemen were subsequently jailed.

Living conditions at Police Bay prison are Spartan.  Access to 
the facility is limited.  SPPF and opposition members of the 
committee drafting the Constitution were allowed to visit the 
prison in 1993, and both delegations expressed satisfaction 
with conditions there.  Family visitation is allowed on a 
weekly basis, and prisoners are allowed access to reading 
materials.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Penal Code provides that persons arrested must be brought 
before a magistrate within 48 hours.  This provision is applied 
in practice to the extent possible (residents of the outer 
islands are in practice detained for longer than 48 hours, as 
the boat trip to Victoria, where the courthouse is located, can 
take 3 or more days from such islands as Assumption and 
Aldabra).  Detainees can effectively seek judicial review of 
the legality of detention.  Bail is available in most cases, as 
is free legal counsel for indigents.  Defense attorneys have 
ready access to detainees.

The new Constitution guarantees that "every person has a right 
to liberty and security of the person," to privacy, to freedom 
of conscience, and to freedom of expression.  However, the 
Constitution allows the curtailment of the right to freedom of 
expression "for protecting the reputation, rights, and freedoms 
of private lives of persons."

In 1992 most dissidents who desired to return to Seychelles, 
including former President Mancham, returned from exile.

In late 1992 and again in 1993, President Rene pledged to 
reexamine land acquisition cases of individuals whose lands 
were not used by the Government after being expropriated.  
Cases were taken up by the court in 1993.  No final 
dispositions were made by year's end.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system is patterned on English common law (e.g., 
public trial by jury) but influenced by the Napoleonic Code, 
particularly in civil matters (e.g., torts and contracts).  The 
judiciary includes the Magistrate's (or small claims) Court, 
the Supreme (or trial) Court, and the Court of Appeals.  
Criminal cases are heard by a magistrate or by the Supreme 
Court, depending on the gravity of the offense.  A jury is 
called only in cases of murder or treason.  Trials are public, 
and the State bears the burden of proving the defendant's 
guilt.  The defendant has the right to be present at the trial, 
to confront witnesses, and to appeal.  Indigent defendants are 
provided free legal counsel.

The Constitutional Commission lauded the principle of an 
independent judiciary.  However, under certain conditions the 
mechanism set up for judicial appointments, the Constitutional 
Appointments Authority (CAA), allows the ruling party to 
control appointments.

Participants in President Rene's 1977 coup d'etat and high 
government officials (and those related to them) are generally 
shielded from prosecution by the judicial system.  In addition, 
an investigation by an opposition paper indicated that, on at 
least one occasion, President Rene intervened with the chairman 
of the CAA in order to expedite a case of personal interest 
before the courts.


Seychelles law requires that a member of the armed forces be 
tried by court-martial unless the President decrees otherwise.  
In the past, this allowed criminals with military ties to 
protect themselves from prosecution for offenses committed 
against civilians.  In 1993 there were no reported cases of 
abuses by military personnel, although the failure of the 
Government aggressively to pursue criminal charges against the 
brother of a high-ranking Coast Guard official raised questions 
about governmental resolve in prosecuting family members of the 
political and military establishment.

In 1993 there were no political detainees or prisoners.

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

The new Constitution provides for a wide variety of individual, 
family, and home protections, and establishes a series of 
fundamental rights which are largely inalienable, including the 
"right to liberty and security of the person" and to privacy.

Under the previous Constitution, which was law until mid-1993, 
the authorities had broad powers for search and seizure without 
a warrant and used this authority to suppress dissenting 
opinion.  In early 1993, the Government harassed a resident 
foreigner married to a Seychellois for allegedly supporting the 
Democratic Party.  After the foreigner proved that he was not 
involved in politics, he was allowed to continue to work and 
reside in Seychelles.  The Government could also legally open 
domestic and international mail, but this practice appears to 
have ended with the advent of the new Constitution.

Responding to public opinion, the Government in 1993 abolished 
the requirement that all students applying to the Polytechnic, 
Seychelles' most prestigious learning institution, attend 
National Youth Service (NYS).  NYS is a year-long paramilitary, 
political, and social training program run by SPPF partisans 
who attempt to indoctrinate the young to support the Rene 
regime.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Guarantees of freedom of speech as provided for under the new 
Constitution were respected.  However, the Constitution allows 
the curtailment of the right to freedom of expression "for 
protecting the reputation, rights, and freedoms of private 
lives of persons."  Thus, freedom of speech and press is 
constrained by the legal ease with which journalists can be 
penalized for alleged libel through civil law suits.  Certain 
subjects, such as high-level corruption, remain largely taboo.

The Ministry of Information publishes the only local daily 
newspaper, The Nation, which presents the news with a 
government bias and does not publish independent viewpoints on 
political matters.  Despite oblique threats from the Minister 
of Communications, criticism of the President (including 
innuendo regarding corruption) was widely seen in political 
posters and carried in the opposition press, including Regar 
and the Seychelles Weekly (former President Mancham's 
newspaper).  The Catholic Church published a monthly magazine, 
Echo des Iles, which often ran editorials and letters 
criticizing the Government.  International political journals 
and general interest magazines (except those with nudity) are 
imported without hindrance.

Through an independent, bipartisan Board of Directors endorsed 
by the leader of the opposition, the Government controls all 
local radio and television broadcasting.  The meetings of the 
Constitutional Commission prior to the June referendum were 
televised daily for many weeks, and fierce criticism of the 
Government's position was routinely heard.

However, towards the end of 1993 some observers noted a subtle 
chilling of the move towards a more objective media, and it 
appeared that state-owned radio and television were discreetly 
adopting a less critical, more partisan tone in their news 
stories.  The Government determined that any attempt to import 
satellite antennas capable of receiving international 
broadcasts would have to be approved on a case-by-case basis 
and expensively licensed.

All films shown, rented, or sold in Seychelles must be approved 
by the National Censorship Board.  This is increasingly a 
rubberstamp process, although government laws restrict the 
distribution of pornography.

There are no universities in Seychelles; higher education is 
generally limited to practical training and vocational school. 
Faculty members are largely apolitical, as most opponents of 
the Rene regime fled abroad during the worst period of 
oppression.  Most of these opponents have not returned, and the 
current teachers are generally either politically silent or 
supportive of the party in power.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association were 
honored in 1993.  The Government tolerated opposition parties 
and organizations and permitted political demonstrations and 
meetings.  Political parties planning to hold rallies are 
required to submit notice to the police beforehand; there were 
no known denials of rallies in 1993.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

There is no religious persecution in Seychelles, and church 
services are widely attended.  The Roman Catholic, Anglican, 
and other Christian denominations worship freely, and Muslims 
and Hindus are not restricted in their religious practices.  
The Government routinely approves local church requests to 
bring in foreign missionaries, provided that they are working 
solely to preach a religious message.  The Government does not 
accept, however, missionaries who apply to come as social 
workers, family counselors, or Sunday school teachers.  Roman 
Catholics make up about 90 percent of the population, and 
Anglicans account for another 5 percent.  There are also active 
and growing Pentecostal, Seventh-Day Adventist, and other 
evangelical Protestant churches.

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

The 1991 Passport Act allowed the Government to deny passport 
services to any Seychellois citizen if the Minister of Defense 
found this in "the national interest."  The new Constitution, 
however, expressly guarantees the right of freedom of movement 
to Seychelles citizens.  There were no known asylum requests in 
1993.

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

Although in 1993 President Rene and the Seychelles People's 
Progressive Front (SPPF) continued to dominate the political 
process, Seychellois exercised their right to change their 
government in the June 1993 referendum on the Constitution and 
the July 1993 national assembly and presidential elections.  
These were held by international and national observers to have 
been free and fair.  While the Government continued to be 
heavily dominated by a single party, this domination reflected 
the party's considerable popularity, as well as the 
Government's pervasive influence on employment and housing 
opportunities.  Under laws passed under the authority of the 
new Constitution, the "Leader of the Opposition," James 
Mancham, was made a government employee with official status, a 
salary, financial allowances, and an annual gratuity.

There are no legal restrictions against the participation of 
women or minority groups in politics.  The white minority of 
Seychelles continues to dominate governmental institutions, but 
some Creoles (African Seychellois) have risen to senior 
positions of responsibility, particularly in the military.  The 
Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Tourism are women, and there 
are women in other high positions.  The Geneva-based Inter- 
Parliamentary Union cited Seychelles as having the world's 
highest percentage of female representation in its Parliament 
(at 45.8 percent of the total delegates).

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

There are no private groups devoted exclusively to 
investigating human rights practices in Seychelles.  However, 
the churches have been strong voices for human rights and 
democratization.  They and other organizations critical of the 
Government have not been harassed by the Government for their 
activities.

Requests for information from foreign organizations are sent to 
the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who acts as an 
interlocutor between human rights groups and the Government.  
There were no known international requests for investigations 
in 1993.

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

There is no overt discrimination in housing, employment, 
education, or other social services based on sex or racial, 
ethnic, national, or religious identification.


     Women

Women have the same legal, political, economic, and social 
rights as men.  There are female government ministers, 
businesspeople, doctors, and attorneys.

Violence against women, particularly wife beating, occurs, but 
according to medical personnel, is not widespread and not 
tolerated by the Government or the courts.  Women frequently 
use a procedure providing for a bond "to keep the peace" of up 
to $200 on someone using or threatening violence.  Married 
women may easily obtain exclusion orders against abusive 
husbands and frequently do.  Violence against women, whether 
domestic or otherwise, is considered assault and is subject to 
criminal prosecution.  Police have no hesitation in intervening 
in domestic disputes in which violence has occurred or is 
threatened.

     Children

Children in Seychelles are protected from labor abuse by law, 
and are required to attend school.  Children are also protected 
from abusive parents by legislation.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There is a historical educational gap between Creoles 
(Seychellois of African origin) and Seychellois of white and 
Asian origin, which has been a factor in the continuing 
political and economic domination of Seychelles by whites and 
Asians.  Despite a significant Creole majority, the President, 
the Health Minister, the Foreign Minister, most principal 
secretaries, and almost the entire merchant and financial class 
are white and Asian.  The Government is attempting to close 
this gap through universal access to public education.  
Empirical evidence suggests that this gap is gradually closing, 
and that increasing numbers of young Creoles are receiving 
higher education.

     People with Disabilities

People with disabilities are not discriminated against either 
de facto or de jure in housing, jobs, or education.  There is 
no legislation guaranteeing universal access to public 
buildings.


Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

As a result of the new Trade Union Industrial Act passed by the 
National Assembly in November 1993, Seychellois workers now 
have the right to form and join unions of their own choosing.  
However, the Act limits unions' ability to organize on a large 
scale so that they cannot become competitors of the government- 
run National Workers' Union (NWU), formerly the only legal 
union.  The Government is a member of the International Labor 
Organization (ILO) and has ratified ILO Convention 87 on 
freedom of association.

Under the law in place for most of 1993, all workers (except 
for some temporary workers) had to belong to the National 
Workers Union (NWU), and a percentage of their social security 
contributions financed the NWU.  The SPPF still controls the 
NWU's funds and appoints its leaders.  The NWU sought to coerce 
Seychelles employers to sign closed shop agreements.  
Furthermore, strikes were illegal unless approved in advance by 
the SPPF Central Committee.  The only strike in 1993 was a 
brief action in November by Indian contract workers protesting 
that their contract violated Seychelles' labor laws.  It ended 
when the Government decreed that their employer was exempt from 
these laws and threatened to deport the workers.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

With only one party-dominated union confederation permitted, 
there were serious limitations on workers' rights to organize 
for most of 1993.  Following the passage of the Trade Union 
Industrial Act, other unions were permitted, but the NWU 
retained a dominant position due to the character of the 
legislation (see above).  One independent union formed in late 
1993.

The NMW Constitution calls for union members to be protected 
"from victimization in the carrying out of legitimate trade 
union activity" and requires its executive board to investigate 
shop steward dismissals to ensure that the dismissals are not 
based on union-related activities.  In the event of a 
disagreement between the NWU and a company over a shop 
steward's dismissal, the SPPF would make the final 
determination.


Free collective bargaining is not practiced in Seychelles.  The 
Government has the right to review and approve all collective 
bargaining agreements from the public and private sectors.  
There is little flexibility in the setting of wages.  The 
Government and state-owned companies, which employ about 70 
percent of the labor force, have mandatory wage scales for 
their employees, based on job classification.  Most private 
employers run very small establishments, and wages in the 
private sector are generally set by individual agreements 
between employer and employee; however, in the few larger 
businesses where collective bargaining is used, wage scales are 
subject to the Government's right of review and approval.

In practice, private employers often follow public sector wage 
scales when setting salary levels, although they frequently pay 
more than the Government in order to attract qualified 
workers.  The Employment Act of 1985, Seychelles' basic labor 
law, vests the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs with 
authority to establish and enforce employment terms, 
conditions, and benefits.  Workers have frequently obtained 
recourse against their employers through the Ministry.  
Although amendments passed in 1990 resulted in a modest 
simplification and liberalization of the basic labor law, they 
did not significantly modify the Governments' dominant role in 
setting terms and conditions of employment.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law and does not 
exist.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is 15, and children are required 
to attend school until the l0th grade or the age of 17, 
whichever occurs first.  The Government strongly encourages 
children to fulfill a year of National Youth Service (NYS) 
before entering the work force at the age of 18 or the 
Polytechnic School for Vocational Training, and it discourages 
public or private sector employment of workers under 18 years 
of age.  The Government offers voluntary short-term (up to 6 
months) work programs for school leavers not participating in 
NYS.  Children in these programs receive a training stipend 
which is below the minimum wage.  The Government effectively 
enforces its child labor laws through regular inspections by 
the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Seychelles has a complicated minimum wage scale, 
administratively regulated by the Government, which covers the 
public and parastatal (state-owned) sectors and differentiates 
among various job classifications.  Given the free public 
services that are available, primarily in the areas of health 
and education, a single salary at the low end of the pay scale 
provides a family with a decent, if Spartan, standard of living.

Many families deal with Seychelles' high cost of living by 
earning two or more incomes.  The Ministry of Employment and 
Social Affairs enforces minimum wage regulations.  The official 
minimum wage is about $120 (600 Seychelles Rupees) a month.  
However, due to a labor shortage, the prevailing wage rates in 
the private sector are considerably higher than the legal 
minimum, and workers have little reason to accept a lower than 
minimum wage.

In recent years there has been a growing trend for the 
Government to import foreign workers, primarily from India and 
Asia, to work in the construction and industrial fishing 
sector.  Although it is difficult to determine the living and 
working conditions of these workers, there is strong empirical 
evidence that Seychelles labor laws are routinely flouted by 
their employers, with government knowledge (see Section 6. 
a.).  These workers are paid lower wages and forced to work 
longer hours than Seychellois.

The legal maximum workweek varies from 25 to 40 hours, 
depending on the economic sector.  Each full-time worker is 
entitled to a half-hour break per day and a minimum of 21 days 
of paid annual leave.  Workers are permitted to work overtime 
up to 60 additional hours per month.  The Government enforces 
these ceilings, though it is possible that occasional abuses 
occur.  As noted above, foreign workers do not enjoy the same 
legal protections.

The Government issued comprehensive revised occupational health 
and safety regulations in October 1991.  The Ministry of 
Employment and Social Affairs is responsible for enforcing 
these regulations.  Inspectors enforce safety standards through 
regular workplace visits, and the Government protects the 
identity of workers who complain of hazardous conditions.
Occupational injuries are most common in the construction and 
marine and port industries.


[end of document]

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