Freedom in the World

Dominica

Dominica

Freedom in the World 2014

2014 Scores

Status

Free

Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1.0

Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1

Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1
Overview: 


The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) ruled on March 11 that the opposition Dominica United Workers Party (UWP) failed to make the case in their appeal that the parliamentary membership of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and Education Minister Petter Saint-Jean should be disqualified as a result of their dual citizenship at the time of the 2009 elections. The UWP boycotted the election of President Charles Savarin, who took office on October 2, claiming that the prime minister had failed to consult the opposition leader, Hector John, on Savarin’s nomination.

Former radio journalist Lennox Linton was elected to lead the UWP in September. A long-time critic of the majority Dominica Labour Party (DLP) government, Linton continued in 2013 to accuse Prime Minister Skerrit of violating the Integrity in Public Office Act.

 

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

 

Political Rights: 38 / 40 [Key]

A. Electoral Process: 12 / 12

Dominica’s unicameral House of Assembly consists of 30 members who serve five-year terms; 21 members are directly elected, 5 senators are appointed by the prime minister, and 4 by the opposition leader. The president, who is the ceremonial head of state, is elected by the House of Assembly for a five-year term, and the prime minister is appointed by the president.

In December 2009 legislative elections, the DLP captured 18 seats, and the UWP took only 3. Although the elections were deemed generally fair by regional observer teams, opposition members accused the DLP of misconduct during the campaign. They also said Prime Minister Skerrit and Minister of Education and Human Resource Development Saint-Jean were ineligible to hold office because they held dual citizenship at the time of the elections. The courts rejected all complaints in 2010 except the dual citizenship case. In January 2012, a High Court judge ruled that the 2009 elections of Skerrit and St. Jean had been constitutional and that they should retain their posts; however, the UWP filed an appeal. In March 2013, the ECSC dismissed the appeal on the grounds that the UWP had failed to prove its case.

Following the resignation of President Nicholas Liverpool for health reasons, in September 2012 parliament elected DLP candidate Eliud Williams to finish Liverpool’s term. The UWP boycotted the election, arguing that the process leading to Williams’s nomination was unconstitutional. The case went to the ECSC, which had yet to issue a decision by year’s end. Meanwhile, in September 2013 the government elected former minister of security Charles Savarin as president. The UWP contested Savarin’s as well as two prior nominations, and again boycotted the election.

The Elections Commission took steps in 2013 to initiate the process of issuing multipurpose identification cards that will be used for voting.

 

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 16 / 16

The dominant political parties are the ruling social-democratic DLP and the opposition centrist UWP. The right-wing Dominica Freedom Party has not been represented in parliament since 2005. Although opposition members complained of unequal access to state media during the campaign period of the 2009 elections, political parties are relatively free to organize.

 

C. Functioning of Government: 10 / 12

The government generally implements anticorruption laws effectively. As an offshore financial center, Dominica passed a series of laws in November 2011 to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. In February 2013, the Integrity in Public Office Commission (IPO) was scheduled to consider a 2012 complaint against Prime Minister Skerrit. Lennox Linton, a radio journalist at the time, accused Skerrit of using his influence as chairman of cabinet to secure concessions for luxury villas for which he allegedly holds ownership claims. The hearing had been repeatedly postponed, with Skerrit’s attorney, Tony Astaphan, questioning the commission’s objectivity. Astaphan then claimed that commission members had leaked confidential information to Linton; Linton later said that Astaphan had himself provided the information to Linton’s source. Just days before the scheduled hearing, a high court judge granted Skerrit’s legal team leave to apply for judicial review of the IPO’s actions, and the IPO subsequently postponed the hearing indefinitely. Dominica was ranked 41 out of 177 countries in the 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.

 

Civil Liberties: 57 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 15 / 16

Freedom of expression is constitutionally guaranteed, and the press is generally free in practice. Four private weekly newspapers are published without interference, and there are both public and private radio stations. Citizens have unimpeded access to cable television and the internet. However, the country lacks access to information legislation, and defamation remains a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment or fines. Libel lawsuits and threats are commonly used by the Skerrit government against members of the media, resulting in self-censorship. In March, the ECSC overruled a lower court decision against Linton for defamation, ordering the accountant to whom Linton had paid damages to cover Linton’s court costs. In November, the ECSC granted leave to appeal the matter to the Privy Council. Police searched Linton’s home and car on January 16 as part of an investigation of leaked IPO information.

Freedom of religion is protected under the constitution and other laws. While the majority of the population is Roman Catholic, Protestants and others practice freely, Academic freedom is respected.

 

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 12 / 12

The authorities uphold freedoms of assembly and association, and advocacy groups operate without interference. Workers have the right to organize, strike, and bargain collectively, and laws prohibit anti-union discrimination by employers. Nevertheless, less than 30 percent of the private sector is unionized.

 

F. Rule of Law: 15 / 16

The judiciary is independent, and the rule of law is enhanced by the courts’ subordination to the inter-island ECSC. In 2013 the government informed the British government of its intention to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice as its final court of appeal, replacing the Privy Council in London. The government awaited a response at year’s end. The judicial system generally operates efficiently, though staffing shortfalls remain a problem.

The Dominica police force, which assumed responsibility for security after the military was disbanded in 1981, operates professionally and with few human rights complaints.

Dominica’s small indigenous population, the Carib-Kalingo, faces a variety of challenges, including a higher poverty rate than the rest of the country, encroachment on its territory by farmers, and difficulties in obtaining loans from banks. Rastafarians also report discrimination and profiling by the police.

 

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 15 / 16

Women are underrepresented in government and hold just four seats in the House of Assembly. No laws mandate equal pay for equal work in private sector jobs, or criminalize domestic abuse, which is a significant problem. Same-sex relations are criminalized with punishments of imprisonment, and the prime minister announced in May that the government has no intention of overturning these laws.

 

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received

Y = Best Possible Score

Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology