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TITLE:  ST. VINCENT AND GRENADINES HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                 
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE


             ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES


A member of the Commonwealth of Nations, St. Vincent and the 
Grenadines is a parliamentary democracy.  After defeating the 
incumbent St. Vincent Labour Party in 1984 elections, Prime 
Minister James F. Mitchell and his New Democratic Party won all 
15 parliamentary seats in general elections held in May 1989.  
Although some concern was voiced about the resulting absence of 
any parliamentary opposition, the elections were judged to be 
free and fair.  New elections are to be held by August 1994.

The Royal St. Vincent Police, the only security force in the 
country, includes a coast guard and a small Special Services 
Unit with some paramilitary training.  The force is controlled 
by and responsive to the civilian government and generally 
maintains standards of professionalism that place a high value 
on respect for human rights.  

St. Vincent has a young population, a high rate of illiteracy, 
and serious unemployment, possibly as high as 40 percent.  The 
major export product is bananas, which also represents the 
major source of foreign exchange earnings.  St. Vincent's 
efforts toward nontraditional economic diversification have met 
with some success in new agricultural products, tourism 
expansion, and in industrial sectors.

The country's human rights problems continued to include police 
use of physical abuse to extract confessions and a backlog of 
cases in the overburdened court system.

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 political killings and no reports of fatal 
shootings by the police in 1993.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearance.


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

The Constitution prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and there were 
no reports of such practices in 1993.  However, a very high 
percentage of convictions (estimated at 95 percent by the 
regional human rights group, Caribbean Rights) is based on 
confessions.  This has led to credible charges that physical 
abuse by law enforcement officials during incarceration is 
sometimes used to extract confessions.

One case of police misconduct occurred in August 1992 when a 
female police constable was found guilty of assaulting four 
ward assistants in a hospital in Kingstown.  The women were 
subjected to vaginal searches in response to a report of 
missing money by another hospital employee, then taken to a 
police station but never arrested or charged.  This incident 
sparked a public outrage, and the constable was ordered to pay 
the complainants, which she did.

Prison facilities are inadequate.  Overcrowding and unsanitary 
conditions remain serious problems.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

According to the Constitution, persons detained for criminal 
offenses are entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable 
time by an impartial court.  The Government has made progress 
in addressing the problem of slow administration of justice 
resulting from a backlog of cases.  In 1993 the Government 
increased from two to four the number of magistrates in an 
attempt to reduce the backlog.  The backlog at year's end was 
21 cases; of over 300 people in jail, fewer than 20 were 
awaiting trial.

Instances of arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile were not 
reported.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for public trials before an 
independent and impartial court.  Criminal defendants are 
entitled to select their own legal counsel.  Indigent defendants
are provided with court-appointed attorneys only when the 
defendant is charged with a capital offense.  Defendants are 
presumed innocent until proven guilty and may appeal cases to a 
regional high court system and ultimately to the Privy Council 
in the United Kingdom.  There are no separate security or 
military court systems.  There are no political prisoners.

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

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary search and seizure or 
other government intrusions into the private life of individual 
citizens.  In 1993 there were no reports of such abuses.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press.  
There are two major newspapers and numerous smaller, partisan 
publications; all are privately owned, and most are openly 
critical of the Government's policies.  In general, the 
Government does not censor or otherwise interfere with the 
operation of the press.  In 1990, however, the Government 
withdrew its own advertisements and official notices from the 
country's leading newspaper to protest the paper's critical 
treatment of government officials.  In 1988 the government- 
owned radio station canceled a program that the Government 
considered provocative; the station, with the Government's 
approval, agreed late in 1989 to reinstate the program, but 
this has not been done to date.  The Government supervises the 
content of the station's programming, a fact that is often 
noted by opposition political parties.  While the opposition 
and human rights monitors also complain that they are denied 
equal access to radio airtime, St. Vincent's television station 
is privately owned, and its policies regarding coverage of 
opposition views and political matters in general are 
considered to be even-handed.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

These freedoms are provided for in the Constitution and 
respected in practice.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

All religions are free to practice and proselytize.


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

These rights are provided for by law and honored in practice.

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

Notwithstanding the New Democratic Party's clean sweep of all 
15 parliamentary seats in the May 1989 elections, St. Vincent 
has a genuine multiparty political system, with three major 
parties.  St. Vincent's parliamentary system is based on the 
Westminister model.  However, the incumbent Governor General, 
supported by the Government, refused to appoint the two 
opposition members to the Senate as called for by the 
Constitution.  He contended that because there is currently no 
parliamentary opposition and therefore no leader of the 
opposition, consultations concerning these appointments could 
not take place.  Elections must be held at least every 5 years, 
by secret ballot, with universal suffrage.  Opposition 
allegations of irregularities in some recent elections have not 
been substantiated.  

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

Opposition political groups and the Vincentian press often 
comment on human rights matters of local concern.  The St. 
Vincent Human Rights Association, affiliated with the regional 
body Caribbean Rights, closely monitors government and police 
activities, especially with respect to treatment of prisoners, 
publicizing any cases of abuse.  In 1990 it published a booklet 
on the administration of justice which focused on the delays in 
the court system and offered a number of recommendations.  The 
Government's response was to appoint an additional (part-time) 
judge.

The Government is generally responsive to public and private 
inquiries about its human rights practices.

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

The Constitution provides for equal treatment under the law 
regardless of race, sex, or religion, and the Government 
adheres to this provision.  


     Women

In 1989 the Government took a significant step forward in terms 
of wage scales for women by adopting a new minimum wage law 
calling for equal pay for equal work.  The law went into effect 
during 1990.  Violence against women occurs in St. Vincent, but 
the Government has failed to take steps to determine the 
seriousness of the problem.  Penalties for violent crimes 
against women are identical to those involving acts of assault 
perpetrated against men.  Depending on the magnitude of the 
offense and the age of the victim, the penalty for rape is 
generally 10 or more years in prison.  Although some victims of 
domestic violence such as wife beating are reluctant to press 
charges, women are increasingly willing to report such 
incidents to the police and the National Council of Women.  The 
Ministry of Education, Youth, and Women's Affairs has a women's 
desk which assists the National Council of Women with seminars, 
training programs, and public relations.

     Children

During 1993 the Government ratified the U.N. Convention on the 
Rights of the Child.  However, the Parliament has not yet 
passed laws to bring local statutes into compliance with the 
Convention.  The Social Welfare Office is the government agency 
responsible for monitoring and protecting the welfare of 
children.  The police are the enforcement arm--all reports of 
child abuse made to the Social Welfare Office are referred to 
the police for action.  Marion House, a social services agency 
established by the Catholic Church in 1989, provides counseling 
and therapy services.  Its director says that, while the 
reported level of cases has increased, it is difficult to 
determine whether this reflects more incidents or increased 
awareness leading to more reporting.  She contends that the 
problem of child abuse is still underreported.  The legal age 
of consent in St. Vincent is 15.

     People with Disabilities

Fiscal considerations limit support for persons with 
disabilities.  There is no specific legislation covering those 
with disabilities.  Most severely handicapped people rarely 
leave their house because of the poor road system and lack of 
affordable wheelchairs.  The Government partially supports a 
school for the disabled which has two branches.  A separate, 
small rehabilitation center treats about five persons daily.


Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

By law, Vincentians have the right to form unions, organize 
employees, and strike; these rights are generally respected in 
practice.  However, there is no legislation for compulsory 
recognition of trade unions.  Unions are independent of the 
Government and of political parties.  Somewhat more than 10 
percent of the labor force is unionized, and no new unions were 
formed in 1993.  There were no major strikes in 1993.  Unions 
are free to form federations and to affiliate with 
international labor bodies, and they do so.  

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

There are no legal obstacles to organizing unions; however, 
employers are not legally bound to recognize a particular union 
as an exclusive bargaining agent.  Some companies offer 
packages of benefits with terms of employment better than, or 
comparable to, what a union can normally obtain through 
negotiations.  The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by 
employers against union members and organizers.  Generally 
effective mechanisms exist for resolving complaints.  Employers 
found guilty of antiunion discrimination can be prosecuted for 
firing workers without cause (including for participation in 
union activities), and workers must be reinstated.

There are no export processing zones in St. Vincent.  

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is illegal and does not exist.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law sets the minimum working age at 16, although a worker 
must be 18 to receive a national insurance card.  This 
provision, monitored and enforced by the labor inspection 
office of the Ministry of Labour, is generally respected in 
practice.  There is no known child labor except for children 
working on family-owned banana plantations, particularly during 
harvest time.


     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Minimum wages are set by law and were last promulgated in 
1989.  They vary by sector and type of work and are specified 
for several skilled categories, including attendants, packers, 
cleaners, porters, watchmen, clerks, etc.   In agriculture the 
wage for workers provided shelter is $0.82 (EC$2.25) per hour; 
skilled industrial workers earn $7.36 (EC$20) per day, and 
unskilled workers earn $3.68 (EC$10) per day.  In many sectors 
the minimum wage is not sufficient to provide a decent standard 
of living for workers and their families, but most workers earn 
more than the minimum.  There is no legislation concerning the 
length of the workweek; however, the general practice is to 
work 40 hours in 5 days.  Workers are guaranteed a minimum 
annual vacation of 2 weeks.  

According to the Ministry of Labour, legislation concerning 
occupational safety and health is outdated.  The most recent 
legislation, the Factories Act of 1955, has some regulations 
concerning only factories, but enforcement of these regulations 
is ineffective due to a lack of inspectors.



[end of document]

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