The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar

Title: Seychelles Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996




                          SEYCHELLES


President France Albert Rene and his Seychelles People's Progressive 
Front (SPPF) have governed 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 was 
continued in power, and the SPPF won 27 of the 33 National Assembly 
seats, 21 by direct 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 government jobs, 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).  Members of the 
security forces committed a few human rights abuses.  

In recent years, the Government continued unsystematically its program 
to privatize the economy, imposed cuts in domestic spending, 
reintroduced import licensing to improve its foreign exchange position, 
and passed laws with tax cuts and abatements to encourage and attract 
foreign investment.  In addition, the Government looked to reduce the 
high dependence on tourism--approximately 70 percent of hard currency 
earnings--by promoting the development of fishing and light 
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.  Security forces used excessive force in a few 
instances, although police brutality is not widespread.  The authorities 
investigated complaints of police abuse and punished officers found 
guilty.  Violence against women and child abuse remained cause for 
concern.

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 politically motivated killings.  In March a 
prisoner was shot to death at Police Bay Prison.  The army guard who was 
responsible for the shooting received a 6-year sentence from a military 
court (see Section 1.c.).  

  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.  In August a woman 
allegedly was repeatedly beaten on the feet and legs at police 
headquarters.  A doctor confirmed that her injuries were consistent with 
this allegation.  In another case, an inquiry is underway into a charge 
that a detainee was beaten at a district police station in November.  

Conditions at the two prisons are Spartan.  Family members are allowed 
monthly visits, and prisoners have access to reading but not writing 
materials.  However, there is no regular system of independent 
monitoring of prisons.  At the Police Bay Prison (which closed in late 
1995), attorneys were not allowed access to the grounds, and requests to 
visit by foreign diplomats were not honored.  In March a prisoner was 
shot to death by a guard at the Police Bay Prison.  Civilian judicial 
authorities held one hearing on the shooting, and another hearing is 
scheduled (see Section 1.a.).  In an instance of alleged medical 
neglect, a prisoner died at the Long Island Prison in 1994 shortly after 
having arrived at the prison reportedly in extremely poor medical 
condition.  

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides that persons arrested must be brought before a 
magistrate within 24 hours.  This provision is applied in practice to 
the extent possible (with allowances for boat travel from distant 
islands).  In October the National Assembly amended this to allow, with 
a court order, 4-days detention without a formal charge.  With a judge's 
approval this period can be extended to 7 days.  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.

Several persons have brought civil cases against the police for unlawful 
arrest or entry, with limited success.  

There were no cases of forced exile in 1995.  Following the 1977 coup, a 
number of persons went into voluntary exile, and others were released 
from prison with the proviso that they immediately leave the country.  A 
number of these former exiles who returned were able to reacquire their 
property, but the large majority have not.  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 Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but there are 
questions about its independence.  

The judicial system includes magistrates' courts, the Supreme Court, the 
Constitutional Court, and the Court of Appeal.  Criminal cases are heard 
by a magistrates' 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 
lawyers.  The Constitutional Court convenes twice a year to consider 
constitutional issues only.  The Court of Appeal convenes twice a year 
to consider appeals from the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court 
only.  

Defendants generally have the right to a fair trial.  All judges are 
appointed for 5 years, and can be re-appointed by the Constituional 
Appointment Committee.  All were hired from other Commonwealth 
countries, and none is Seychellois.  Some observers criticized 
expatriate judges for a perceived lack of sensitivity on issues such as 
domestic violence.

Legal organs of the Government, such as the Attorney General's office 
and the Ombudsman, are reluctant to pursue charges of wrongdoing or 
abuse of power against senior officials.  

There were no reports of 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.  The 
law requires that all wiretaps be justified on the grounds of preventing 
a serious crime and be approved by a judge.  There are credible reports 
the government maintains phone taps on some political personalities.  

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 civil law suits can be filed to penalize journalists 
for alleged libel.  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 and news adverse to the Government only limited coverage.

While both of the opposition parties publish an assortment of 
newsletters and magazines, only one full-fledged independent newspaper, 
the weekly Regar, is currently in circulation.  Government figures have 
sued Regar for libel five times in the past 2 years.  Regar temporarily 
suspended publication for 1 month at the beginning of the year when it 
lost a libel suit brought by a government official, so that its staff 
could devote their efforts to raising funds for legal expenses.  In 
November an Appeals Court judge sustantially reduced its fine.  A second 
weekly, The Independent, was forced to cease publication because of 
dwindling circulation and the financial effect of losing a libel suit 
brought by a government official.  Independent publications are also 
potentially vulnerable to government pressure now that the only printing 
press has been sold to an SPPF National Assemblyman.  

Academic freedom is limited since, for example, one cannot reach senior 
positions in the academic bureaucracy without demonstrating at least 
nominal loyalty to the SPPF.  There are no universities; secondary 
school teachers are largely apolitical.  The Government controls access 
to the Polytechnic, the most prestigious learning institution, and 
public school graduates wishing admission are given preference for 
participating 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.  

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for these freedoms, and in practice the 
Government generally permitted peaceful assembly and association without 
interruption or interference.  The police handled student demonstrations 
in 1994 with professional restraint.

In addition to the SPPF, there are two other political parties.  In 1995 
the Government twice denied permission to the United Opposition Party to 
hold public assemblies.

In March government security forces barred Christopher Gill, the only 
directly elected member of the National Assembly from the opposition 
Democratic Party, from entering the hall where the party's convention 
was taking place (see Section 3).  

Opposition parties cited several cases in which supporters lost 
government jobs solely because of their political beliefs.  Political 
criteria also appear to weigh in government decisions regarding licenses 
and loans.  

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right 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 1995, 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 
1995 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 President's SPPF party has utilized its political resources and 
those of the Government 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.

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.  Mancham was reelected President of the 
Democratic Party by acclamation at a controversial party convention in 
March.  The party's sole directly elected member of the National 
Assembly was barred by government security forces from attending the 
convention, allegedly on Mancham's orders (see Section 2.b.).  Critics 
of Mancham alleged that his ties to the ruling SPPF were too close and 
that he discouraged his own party members from criticizing the 
Government.  

There are no legal restrictions on the participation of women or 
minority groups in politics.  Women hold 3 ministerial positions in the 
11-person Cabinet and 8 seats in the 33-member 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, both the churches and some nongovernmental 
organizations (NGO's) 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 based 
on these factors.  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

Violence against women, particularly wife beating, remains a concern.  
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.

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

  Children

Children have legal protection from labor and physical abuse and are 
required to attend school.  Free public education is available.  In June 
the Government announced the National Program of Action for Children, 
which creates an institutional framework for aiding children.  

Sexual abuse of young girls, usually in low-income families, is a 
serious problem.  While complete statistics are not available, 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.  There is criticism that the police fail 
to investigate charges of child abuse with vigor.

  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.  
The Government promised the International Labor Organization (ILO) that 
it would implement a law providing for more jobs for disabled workers.  
However, there were no signs by year's end that such a law will be 
introduced.  

  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There is a historical educational gap between Creoles 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.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

Under the 1993 Industrial Relations Act (IRA), which took effect in 
January 1994, workers have the right to form and join unions of their 
own choosing.  Police, military, prison, and fire-fighting personnel may 
not unionize.  Under the Act, the former government-controlled union, 
the National Workers Union (NWU), lost its monopoly position.   

There are currently four registered unions:  two dominated by the SPFF 
and two independents.  An attempt to organize an independent union 
incorporating employees from both governmental ministries and 
government-owned entities was thwarted by government legal action.  

Unions can freely affiliate with international bodies.

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The IRA provides workers with 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 60 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 historically have paid more than the Government in 
order to attract qualified workers.  However, economic problems this 
year have led to downward pressures on wages.  

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers against union 
members.  Independent unions allege that their members in the public 
sector have been discriminated against on the job because of their 
affiliation with non-SPFF unions.  

The Employment Act of 1989, 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.  However, the 1995 Employment Act, intended to help attract 
foreign investment, appears to have weakened some workers rights.  

There are no export processing zones, but the Government is actively 
attempting to create one.  

  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 years, and children are encouraged 
to attend school until the l0th grade or age 17, whichever occurs first.  
The Government strongly encourages children to fulfill a year of NYS 
before entering the work force at age l6 or the Polytechnic School for 
Vocational Training, and it discourages public or private sector 
employment of workers under age l6.  The Government sponsors 
aprenticeships and 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 enforces child labor laws through 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.  Trade unions say that government 
entities are paying some workers at less than the legal minimum.  Even 
with the free public services that are available, primarily health and 
education, independent labor unions dispute that a single salary at the 
low end of the pay scale provides a family with even a Spartan standard 
of living.

Many families deal with the high cost of living by earning two or more 
incomes, although the number of households with two persons employed has 
reportedly dropped to 30 percent.  In recent years there has been a 
growing trend for the Government to import foreign workers, primarily 
from India and elsewhere in Asia, to work in the construction and 
industrial fishing sectors.  Although it is difficult to determine the 
living and working conditions of these workers, there is strong 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, sometimes with the express 
consent of the Government.

The legal maximum workweek varies from 45 to 52 hours, depending on the 
economic sector, while government employees work shorter hours.  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 has formal responsibility for enforcing these 
regulations; however the Ministry of Health seeks a role in this area.  
An ILO team which visited in early 1995 found serious deficiencies in 
the management and effectiveness of government monitoring and 
enforcement efforts.  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 rarely visit job sites.  In 1994 
there were four deaths and 162 on-the-job injuries officially reported.  
In 1995 there were two deaths and 57 on-the-job injuries.  


(###)

[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1995 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.