US Report: No Gov’t Killings In SVG, Fear Of Libel Charges For Criticising Gov’t

The Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police is the only security force in the country and is responsible for maintaining national security. Its forces include the Coast Guard, Special Services Unit, Rapid Response Unit, Drug Squad, and Antitrafficking Unit.

Police report to the minister of national security, a portfolio held by the prime minister. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were no reports of security forces committing abuses during the year.

Significant human rights issues included the criminalization of libel and the criminalization of consensual same-sex conduct between men, which was not enforced during the year.

There were no reports of officials committing human rights abuses, and there was not a widespread perception of impunity for security force members.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
A. ARBITRARY DEPRIVATION OF LIFE AND OTHER UNLAWFUL OR POLITICALLY MOTIVATED KILLINGS

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

B. DISAPPEARANCE

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

C. TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports the government employed them systematically.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces.

PRISON AND DETENTION CENTER CONDITIONS

Prison conditions were less than adequate, although they varied depending on the facility. Key problems with prison facilities included understaffing, overcrowding, gang activity, the inability to control contraband, and limited space to segregate noncompliant and juvenile prisoners.

Physical Conditions: Limited prison capacity prevented authorities from segregating juvenile offenders, with offenders between the ages of 16 and 21 held with adult prisoners.

Prisoners younger than age 16 were held in a separate facility. Female prisoners were held in a makeshift facility while construction of a women’s prison was underway. The two facilities for male prisoners were near capacity throughout the year.

Limited physical space and inadequate training for prison officials hindered accommodations for prisoners with disabilities. One prisoner died from an apparent suicide.

Administration: There were two reports of mistreatment, and authorities investigated the mistreatment allegations.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. Due in part to COVID-19 restrictions, no representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) visited or monitored the prisons.

D. ARBITRARY ARREST OR DETENTION

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

The law requires a judicial authority to issue arrest warrants. The bail system was generally effective. Authorities generally gave detainees prompt access to a lawyer. For indigent detainees accused of a capital offense, the state provides a lawyer.

For other crimes the state does not provide a lawyer, and defendants without the financial means to hire a lawyer must represent themselves.

Although lengthy delays prior to preliminary inquiries were reported, government authorities and civil society reported compliance with Court of Appeal guidelines that require a preliminary hearing to be held within nine months of detention.

E. DENIAL OF FAIR PUBLIC TRIAL

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and are informed promptly and in detail of the charges. Defendants have the right to a fair, timely, and public trial and to be present at the trial. Defendants are able to select an attorney of their choice.

The court appoints attorneys only for indigent defendants charged with a capital offense. Defendants have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. Defendants have access to free assistance of an interpreter as necessary. Defendants could confront and question witnesses and present their own witnesses and evidence.

Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt. Witnesses and victims sometimes refused to testify because they feared retaliation. Defendants may appeal verdicts and penalties.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

There is an independent, impartial judiciary in civil matters where one may bring lawsuits seeking damages for human rights violations. Individuals may appeal domestic courts’ decisions to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal or the United Kingdom’s Privy Council.

F. ARBITRARY OR UNLAWFUL INTERFERENCE WITH PRIVACY, FAMILY, HOME, OR CORRESPONDENCE

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

A. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, INCLUDING FOR THE PRESS

Libel/Slander Laws: Civil society observers reported concerns about criticizing the government, primarily due to fear of facing libel charges, including under the cybercrime act.

Civil society representatives indicated these fears resulted in media outlets practicing self-censorship. The act establishes criminal penalties, including imprisonment, for offenses including libel by electronic communication, cyberbullying, and illegal acquisition of data. The government did not charge anyone with libel or defamation during the year.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

B. FREEDOMS OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights. Civil society representatives, however, reported citizens were hesitant to participate in antigovernment protests due to fear of retaliation.

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