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TITLE: SEYCHELLES HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY 1995









                           SEYCHELLES


President France Albert Rene and his Seychelles People's 
Progressive Front (SPPF) have governed the Seychelles since a 
1977 military coup.  In the 1990's the SPPF guided the return 
to a multiparty political system, which culminated in July 1993 
in the country's first free and fair presidential and 
parliamentary elections since 1977.  President Rene won 
reelection, and the SPPF won 27 of the 33 National Assembly 
seats, 21 by election and 6 by proportional representation.  
Despite the elections, the President and the SPPF continued to 
dominate the country through a pervasive system of political 
patronage and control over jobs, government contracts, and 
resources.

The President has complete control over the security apparatus, 
which includes a national guard force, the army, and the 
police.  There is also an armed paramilitary Police Mobile Unit 
(PMU).  Security forces used excessive force in a number of 
instances, although police brutality is not widespread.  The 
authorities investigated complaints of police abuse and 
punished officers found guilty.

In recent years, the Government accelerated its program to 
privatize the economy, imposed deep cuts in domestic spending 
to improve its foreign exchange position, and passed laws with 
tax cuts and abatements to encourage private businesses to 
expand and attract foreign investment.  In addition, the 
Government moved to reduce the high dependence on tourism--
approximately 70 percent of hard currency earnings--by 
promoting the development of fishing, farming, and small-scale 
manufacturing.  Despite these efforts, the public and 
quasi-public sectors continued to drive the economy, and the 
Government, through the Seychelles Marketing Board, other state 
organizations, and the use of banking regulations, continued to 
dominate most aspects of the economy.

The human rights situation continued to improve, and the 
Government generally respected the rights of its citizens.  
However, despite parliamentary formalities, the President 
continued to wield power virtually unchecked.  There was one 
incident in which police beat and tortured an employee of the 
Seychelles Broadcasting Company.  Violence against women and 
child abuse remained serious problems.

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 reports of political or other extrajudicial  
killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

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

The Constitution expressly forbids torture, but there have been 
instances of excessive use of force by police.  The authorities 
have investigated and punished offenders in the past.  However, 
in February police reportedly tortured an employee of the 
Seychelles Broadcasting Company (SBC) and detained him without 
charge for 14 days.  (He was suspected of involvement in a 
break-in at the radio station.)  Police reportedly beat the man 
on his face, back, and sexual organs in order to coerce a 
confession, but the authorities never formally charged him with 
a crime.  The police did not take disciplinary action against 
the perpetrators of this abuse, and at year's end the SBC 
employee had begun a civil action against the Government for 
damages.

Conditions at Police Bay prison are Spartan, but not life-
threatening.  Family members are allowed weekly visits, and 
prisoners are given access to reading materials.  There is no 
regular system of independent monitoring of prisons.

     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 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 have access to legal counsel, and free counsel is 
provided for the indigent.  The law provides for judicial 
review of the legality of detention, and bail is available for 
most offenses.

Other than the case of the SBC employee (see Section 1.c.), 
there were no reports of arbitrary arrest or unlawful 
detention.  There were no political detainees or cases of 
forced exile.  A number of former exiles who returned were able 
to reacquire their property.  However, there were some 
instances in which the Government rejected valid compensation 
claims for confiscated properties of returning exiles, 
apparently for political reasons.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system includes magistrate's courts, the Supreme 
Court, the Constitutional Court, and the Court of Appeals.  
Criminal cases are heard by a magistrate's court or the Supreme 
Court, depending on the gravity of the offense.  A jury is used 
in cases involving murder or treason.  Trials are public, and 
the accused is considered innocent until proven guilty.  
Defendants have the right to counsel, to be present at their 
trial, to confront witnesses, and to appeal.  The Government 
provides free counsel to the indigent, although there are only 
a few well-trained Seychellois lawyers.  The Constitutional 
Court convenes twice a year to consider constitutional issues 
only.

Defendants generally have the right to a fair trial.  However, 
the judiciary has been criticized for not prosecuting 
senior-level government officials, and there are questions 
about the judiciary's independence.  Judges are appointed 
through the Constitutional Appointments Authority (CAA) system, 
and the President appoints the CAA chairman.  The current 
chairman is a staunch SPPF supporter, and the President's  
influence extends to judicial appointments.  All judges are 
appointed for 5 years and were hired from other Commonwealth 
countries; none is Seychellois.  Some observers criticized 
expatriate judges for a lack of sensitivity on issues such as  
domestic violence.

There were no political prisoners.

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

The Constitution provides for the right to privacy and freedom 
from arbitrary searches.  The law requires a warrant for police 
searches, and the authorities generally respected this 
requirement in practice.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, 
but it also provides for restrictions on speech "for protecting 
the reputation, rights, and freedoms of private lives of 
persons" and "in the interest of defense, public safety, public 
order, public morality, or public health."  Both freedom of 
speech and the press are thus constrained by the ease with 
which legal action can be taken to penalize journalists for 
alleged libel through civil law suits.  In most instances, 
citizens speak freely, including in Parliament, although the 
President is rarely criticized.

The Government has a near monopoly on the media, owning the 
only television and radio stations, the most important means 
for reaching the public, and the only daily newspaper (the 
Nation).  The official media adhere closely to the Government's 
position on policy issues and give the opposition only limited 
coverage.

In 1994 there were four independent weeklies, which in the past 
have criticized official policies and the President's closest 
advisers.  However, at year's end, the most important 
independent weekly, the Regar, had suspended publication due to 
a libel action brought by the Deputy Commander of the army 
against the newspaper's publisher.  On December 12, the Supreme 
Court found the Regar guilty of defamation and awarded the 
Deputy Commander damages of $34,879 (SR 173,000).  The 
newspaper is appealing the judgment.  Also, a second weekly, 
the Independent, shifted to monthly publication in late 
December, reportedly due to low circulation and financial 
constraints.

Academic freedom is limited.  There are no universities; 
secondary school teachers are largely apolitical.  The 
Government controls access to the Polytechnic, the most 
prestigious learning institution, by requiring all students to 
participate in the National Youth Service (NYS), a year-long 
program which now emphasizes educational instruction, although 
in the past it has stressed paramilitary training and SPPF 
ideology.  In September students at the NYS held a series of 
demonstrations to protest budgetary cuts.  The demonstrations 
escalated into violence, which resulted in extensive property 
damage.  In response, the political opposition proposed 
legislation in the National Assembly to abolish the NYS.  The 
President opposed the legislation, and the measure was defeated.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for these freedoms, and in practice 
the Government permitted peaceful assembly and association 
without interruption or interference.  The police handled 
student demonstrations at the NYS camp with professional 
restraint.

In addition to the SPPF, there are a number of other political 
parties.  The Government regularly granted permits required for 
all public gatherings.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and this 
right is respected in practice.

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

The Constitution provides for freedom of movement, and there 
was no known abridgement of domestic or international travel.  
Although it was not used in 1994, the 1991 Passport Act allows 
the Government to deny passports to any citizen if the Minister 
of Defense finds such denial "in the national interest."  There 
were no known requests for asylum in 1994 and no refugees in 
the Seychelles.

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

Citizens freely exercised the right to change their government 
in the July 1993 National Assembly and presidential elections, 
which were judged by international and national observers to 
have been free and fair.  However, President Rene and the SPPF 
dominated the electoral process and continued to rule--as they 
have since 1977.  The elections served to provide a voice to 
other parties.  The main opposition party, the Democratic 
Party, is led by Sir James Mancham, the country's first elected 
president, who was forced into a 15-year exile in 1977.

The President's SPPF party has utilized its political resources 
to develop a nationwide organization that extends to the 
village level.  The opposition parties have been unable to 
match the SPPF's organization and patronage, in part because of 
resource limitations.

There are no legal restrictions against the participation of 
women or minority groups in politics.  Women hold 3 ministerial 
positions in the 11-person Cabinet and 8 seats in the National 
Assembly.  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.  Of the six members of the 
Defence Forces Council, four are Creole.

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.  However, the churches 
have been strong voices for human rights and democratization, 
and the Government has not interfered with their activities.  
There were no known requests by international human rights 
groups to visit the Seychelles.

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

The Constitution affirms the right to be free from all types of 
discrimination, but does not specifically prohibit 
discrimination.  In practice, there is no overt discrimination 
in housing, employment, education, or other social services 
based on race, sex, ethnic, national, or religious 
identification.

     Women

Seychelles is a largely matriarchal society, and women have the 
same legal, political, economic, and social rights as men.  
There is no discrimination in education or employment, and 
women are fairly well represented in the political process and 
in business.

According to law enforcement sources, violence against women, 
particularly wife beating, is common.  Police seldom intervene 
in domestic disputes, unless the dispute involves a weapon or 
major assault.  The few cases that reach a prosecutor are often 
dismissed, or if a case reaches court, a perpetrator is usually 
given only a light sentence.  There is a lack of societal 
concern about domestic violence, and there are no 
nongovernmental groups that address this issue.

     Children

The Constitution provides for the rights of minors but the 
Government has failed to address effectively key issues such as 
child abuse.

Sexual abuse of young girls, usually in low-income families, is 
a serious problem.  While the total dimension of the problem is 
not known, Ministry of Health data and press reports indicate 
that there are a significant number of rape cases of girls 
under the age of 15.  Very few child-abuse cases are actually 
prosecuted in court.  The strongest public advocate for young 
victims is a semiautonomous agency, the National Council for 
Children, not the Government.  The press has also begun to 
address the issue, calling for suitable facilities to house 
abused children, including foster homes, as well as increased 
public awareness of the problem.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There is a historical educational gap between Creoles 
(Seychellois of African origin) and Seychellois of white or 
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 or Asian.  The Government is attempting to close this 
gap through universal access to public education, but the 
formalization and teaching of Creole has made it more difficult 
for Creole students to learn English and French at a 
competitive level.  Further, the political domination by whites 
seems unyielding since the elected leadership of the majority 
party, and that of most of the several opposition parties, is 
white.

     People with Disabilities

The Government does not discriminate against people with 
disabilities in housing, jobs, or education.  However, there is 
no legislation providing for access to public buildings, 
transportation, or government services.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Under the 1993 Trade Union Industrial Act, which took effect in 
February, workers have the right to form and join unions of 
their own choosing.  Police and fire employees may not 
unionize.  Under the Act, the former government-controlled 
union, the National Workers Union (NWU), lost its monopoly 
position, and during the year, workers formed six new unions, 
all registered, organized, and run by former officials of the 
NWU.  In addition, in June the Government recognized and 
registered the Public Service Union (PSU), with a membership of 
236 teachers, airport employees, and police civilian employees, 
among others.  The Government refused to recognize another 
proposed union, the Seychelles Union of Public Employees 
(SUPE), objecting to its goal of organizing all state 
employees.

The six new unions formed after the demise of the NWU continue 
to be dominated by the Government and the SPPF.  The Trade 
Union Industrial Act prohibits retribution against strikers, 
but the Government has not enforced the law.  For instance, in 
May stevedores formerly employed by the Union Lighterage 
Company (ULC) were locked out by the new private owners of the 
port facility.  As the new owners reduced the work force, they 
refused to honor the workers' claim that under their contract, 
they were entitled to 1 hour's pay per each day of work lost 
due to the privatization.  The ULC claimed that the workers had 
gone on strike and refused them further work or the pay 
claimed.  The workers are planning to challenge the decision in 
court.

Unions can freely affiliate with international bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The 1993 Trade Union Industrial Act gives workers the legal 
right to engage in collective bargaining.  However, in practice 
free collective bargaining does not normally take place.  The 
Government has the right to review and approve all collective 
bargaining agreements in the public and private sectors.  There 
is little flexibility in the setting of wages.  In the public 
sector, which employs about 70 percent of the labor force, the 
Government sets mandatory wage scales for employees.  Wages in 
the private sector are generally set by the employer in 
individual agreements with the employee, but in the few larger 
businesses, wage scales are subject to the Government's right 
of review and approval.  Private employers frequently pay more 
than the Government in order to attract qualified workers.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers against 
union members.  The Government may intervene to redress such 
complaints but has not done so for members of unions that do 
not have governmental approval.

The Employment Act of 1985, which remains the basic labor law, 
authorizes the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs to 
establish and enforce employment terms, conditions, and 
benefits.  Workers have frequently obtained recourse against 
their employers through the Ministry.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and it 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 before 
entering the work force at the age of l6 or the Polytechnic 
School for Vocational Training, and it discourages public or 
private sector employment of workers under l6 years of age.  
The Government offers voluntary short-term (up to 6 months) 
work programs for those who leave school and do not participate 
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, which is 
administratively regulated by the Government; it covers the 
public and state-owned sectors and differentiates among various 
job classifications.  The Ministry of Employment and Social 
Affairs enforces minimum wage regulations.  The official 
minimum wage is about $320 (1,600 Seychelles rupees) a month.  
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 the high cost of living by earning two 
or more incomes.  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 the 
labor laws are routinely flouted by their employers, with the 
Government's knowledge.  These workers are paid lower wages and 
forced to work longer hours than Seychellois.

The legal maximum workweek varies from 45 to 52 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 generally 
enforces these ceilings.  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.  Occupational injuries are most common in 
the construction, marine, and port industries.  A worker who 
removes himself from a potentially dangerous situation on the 
job is considered to have resigned.  Safety and health 
inspectors do not visit job sites.  In June two teenagers 
working in a large metal storage tank expressed to their 
employers fear of some loose metal girders falling on them but 
were ignored.  A girder later fell on them, resulting in severe 
injuries requiring hospital stays of 2 months.  The parents of 
one of the youths has filed suit in court.
(###)


[end of document]

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