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TITLE:  ST. VINCENT & GRENADINES HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995










                 ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES


A member of the Commonwealth of Nations and the Organization of 
Eastern Caribbean States, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a 
parliamentary democracy.  Prime Minister James F. Mitchell and 
his New Democratic Party (NDP) returned to power for an 
unprecedented third term in free and fair elections held in 
February.

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 Government, but there continued to be 
occasional reports of the use of force and other extralegal 
means to elicit confessions from suspects.

St. Vincent has a young population, a high rate of illiteracy, 
and serious unemployment, possibly as high as 40 percent.  The 
leading export product is bananas, which also represents the 
major source of foreign exchange earnings.  The banana industry 
throughout the Windward Islands suffered a severe downturn in 
1993-94, and St. Vincent has not escaped the negative impact.  
Efforts toward nontraditional economic diversification met with 
some success in new agricultural products, luxury tourism 
expansion, and in some industrial sectors.

The country's human rights problems continued to include police 
use of physical abuse to extract confessions, the Government's 
failure to punish those involved in such abuse, inadequate and 
overcrowded prisons, and an 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 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 prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and there were 
no reports of such practices.  However, a very high percentage 
of convictions (estimated at 90 percent by the regional human 
rights group, Caribbean Rights) continue to be based on 
confessions.  Many of these confessions resulted from 
unwarranted police practices, including physical abuse during 
detention, illegal search and seizure, and not properly 
informing those arrested of their rights.  There were no known 
instances of the Government trying, convicting, and punishing 
police officers involved in such abuses.

There is no independent review board to monitor police activity 
and to hear public complaints about police misconduct.  
Caribbean Rights has advocated such a board to protect the 
rights of citizens complaining of these activities.

Inadequate and overcrowded prisons remain a serious problem.  
These conditions are particularly harsh for juvenile 
offenders.  There is a small facility for delinquent boys, but 
it is seriously inadequate and is generally used for those 
already convicted through the criminal system.  In one case 
police forced three youths aged 13, 14, and 15 to sit in a 
police station for nearly 2 days awaiting processing of their 
case.  Although separate legal statutes exist for youthful 
offenders, there are no separate magistrates or prosecutors to 
hear these cases.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides for persons detained for criminal 
offenses to receive a fair hearing within a reasonable time by 
an impartial court.  The Government made progress in addressing 
the problem of slow administration of justice resulting from a 
backlog of cases in 1993 by increasing the number of 
magistrates from two to four.  While this reduced the backlog, 
complaints remain regarding police practices in bringing cases 
to court.  Some defense attorneys claim this has caused 6- to 
12-month delays in preliminary inquiries for serious crimes.

There were no reports of instances of arbitrary arrest, 
detention, or exile.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for public trials before an 
independent and impartial court.  The court appoints attorneys 
for indigent defendants 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, and 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.  There were no reports 
of government censorship or interference with the operation of 
the press.  Opposition political parties had equal access to 
all forms of media during the 1994 elections.

The lone television station in St. Vincent is privately owned 
and operates without government interference.  The Government 
controls programming for the government-owned radio station.  
There are no call-in talk shows; the Government canceled such a 
show in 1988, claiming it was politically slanted.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for these freedoms, and the 
Government respects them in practice.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

All religions are free to practice and proselytize.  The 
Constitution provides protection for these rights.

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

The law provides for these rights and the authorities honor 
them in practice.

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

Citizens have the right to change their government through 
regularly scheduled free and fair elections.  St. Vincent has a 
long history of multiparty parliamentary democracy.  During the 
1994 campaign, the two opposition parties united to challenge 
the ruling New Democratic Party.  The effort was successful to 
the extent that the "Unity" coalition won 3 of 15 parliamentary 
seats--the NDP held all 15 prior to the election.  Since the 
new Parliament convened, the opposition complained that the 
ruling party has not complied with what the opposition asserts 
is a constitutional obligation to answer questions it puts 
forth.  Two separate cases of voting irregularities were filed 
against the Government following the 1994 elections, but the 
courts found them to be groundless.

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.  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

Violence against women occurs in St. Vincent, but the 
Government has failed to take steps to determine the 
seriousness of the problem.  Although some victims of domestic 
violence are reluctant to press charges, women were 
increasingly willing to report such incidents to police and the 
National Council of Women.  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.  There are no mechanisms 
to enforce support payments by men who father children-- 
legitimately or otherwise.

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.  The minimum 
wage law specifies that women should receive equal pay for 
equal work.

     Children

The Social Welfare Office is the government agency responsible 
for monitoring and protecting the welfare of children.  The 
police are the enforcement arm--the Social Welfare Office 
refers all reports of child abuse 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 said that the problem of child abuse is 
still underreported.  The legal age of consent in St. Vincent 
is 15.

     People with Disabilities

There is no specific legislation covering those with 
disabilities.  Most severely handicapped people rarely leave 
their homes 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, and--given the high level of 
unemployment--participation in unions has decreased to about 10 
percent of the work force.  Several existing unions united in 
1994 to form a new union, the National Congress of Labour.  
This move toward unification reflects the need for unions to 
combine in order to survive.  There were no major strikes in 
1994.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

There are no legal obstacles to organizing unions; however, no 
law requires employers 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.  The authorities can order 
employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination for firing 
workers without cause (including for participation in union 
activities) to reinstate the workers.

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.  The labor 
inspection office of the Ministry of Labour monitors and 
enforces this provision, and employers generally respect it 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

The law sets minimum wages, which 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, and clerks.  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.  The law provides workers 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.  Workers can remove 
themselves from dangerous workplace situations without jeopardy 
to continued employment.

(###)

[end of document]

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