Freedom in the World

St. Kitts and Nevis

St. Kitts and Nevis

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
Trend Arrow: 


Saint Kitts and Nevis received a downward trend arrow due to the government’s improper efforts to block consideration of a no-confidence motion that had been submitted by opposition legislators in December 2012.

Overview: 


Disharmony within the ruling Saint Kitts and Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) erupted in early 2013 with the firing and resignation of two senators in Prime Minister Denzil Douglas’s government. Among the numerous issues of contention were a bill that would increase the number of senators in the National Assembly, and a motion of no confidence submitted in December 2012 that Douglas refused to table for debate. The High Court ruled against the government in numerous cases throughout the year, including nullifying the appointment of a new attorney general and declaring the Senators Act unconstitutional.

General elections were held for the Nevis Island Assembly on January 22. The Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) won a majority.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 
 
Political Rights: 37 / 40 (-1) [Key]

A. Electoral Process: 12 / 12

The federal government consists of the prime minister, the cabinet, and the unicameral National Assembly. A governor-general represents Queen Elizabeth II as ceremonial head of state. Elected National Assembly representatives—8 from Saint Kitts and 3 from Nevis—serve five-year terms. In addition, the governor-general appoints 3 senators, plus the attorney general who is also a senator, under the advice of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition.

The January 2010 parliamentary elections were deemed generally free and fair. Denzil Douglas of the ruling SKNLP won a fourth term as prime minister. The SKNLP won 6 seats, and the opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM) won 2 seats. For the Nevis seats, the pro-independence CCM and the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) retained 2 and 1 seat, respectively.

The Nevis Island Assembly is composed of 5 elected and 3 appointed members. The local government provides its own services, with the exception of police and foreign relations. The constitution grants Nevis the option to secede. In March 2012, the High Court declared the 2011 election results for one of the assembly seats to be null and void, and the assembly was dissolved in November 2012 in preparation for new general elections, which were held on January 22. The CARICOM Election Observer Mission reported that the 2013 elections were peaceful and fair. The opposition CCM captured 3 of the 5 seats, defeating the NRP to become the majority party.

In preparation for the next general elections, constitutionally due in 2015, in July the National Assembly approved amendments to the election law designed to expedite ballot counting. The prime minister also announced plans that month to change the constituency boundaries, a move the opposition labeled as gerrymandering. On November 25, the High Court upheld an injunction filed by opposition legislators to prevent the governor-general from implementing the boundary changes. Although he approved a judicial review, the judge ruled that there was no evidence that the Constituency Boundaries Commission had acted improperly in the preparation of their report. The judicial review was pending at year’s end.

 

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 16 / 16

In general, people have the right to organize in different political parties and to form and operate new parties. The SKNLP and the PAM dominate politics. On June 17, former ministers Timothy Harris and Sam Condor launched the People’s Labour Party, aligned with the opposition.

 

C. Functioning of Government: 9 / 12 (-1)

Increasing discord within the ruling SKNLP came to a head in early 2013 with the dismissal of Senior Minister Timothy Harris on January 25, and the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Sam Condor on January 31. Harris was fired for publicly opposing a government-sponsored bill to increase the number of National Assembly senators to six, and for not stating how he would vote on the motion of no confidence. Condor resigned in response to “issues of good governance and constitutional integrity.”

A few days later, Condor and the leader of the PAM opposition party filed an injunction in the High Court to prohibit newly appointed attorney general Jason Hamilton from continuing as a senator, and to block the Senators (Increase of Number) Act. Hamilton had been appointed on January 28, and was sworn in the next day, allowing him to cast the decisive vote to pass the Senators Act. On February 28, the High Court declared Hamilton’s appointment null and void due to irregularities in procedures, and ruled the Senators Act unconstitutional. Hamilton was subsequently re-appointed under proper procedures.

In March, opposition legislators called for a debate on the no confidence motion, but the prime minister continued to avoid the issue. In November, the opposition requested the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Assembly to review the allegedly unconstitutional delays in debating the no confidence motion. The motion of no confidence had yet to be debated at year’s end.

Saint Kitts and Nevis has generally implemented its anticorruption laws effectively. The government reiterated that freedom of information legislation was a priority in 2013, but a bill had yet to pass at year’s end. The Integrity in Public Life Bill was passed in September, though government officials are not required to disclose financial assets. A Financial Intelligence Unit investigates financial crimes, but no independent body addresses allegations of governmental corruption. In November, the new premier of the Nevis Island Assembly accused the previous administration of misappropriating public funds; an investigation was ongoing at year’s end.

 

Civil Liberties: 53 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 15 / 16

Constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression are generally respected. On October 8, Prime Minister Douglas won EC$350,000 (US$130,000) in a defamation case initiated in 2011 against The Democrat, a newspaper aligned with the opposition PAM. The government owns the sole local television station, and the opposition faces some restrictions on access. In addition to both government and private radio stations, there is one privately owned daily newspaper, and political parties publish weekly newspapers. Internet access is not restricted.

Freedom of religion is constitutionally protected, and academic freedom is generally honored.

 

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 12 / 12

The right to form civic organizations is generally respected, as is freedom of assembly. Workers may legally form unions. A union can engage in collective bargaining only if more than 50 percent of the company’s employees are union members. The right to strike, while not specified by law, is generally respected in practice.

 

F. Rule of Law: 13 / 16 (+1)

The judiciary is largely independent, and legal provisions for a fair and speedy trial are generally observed. The highest court is the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, but under certain circumstances, there is a right of appeal to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice. Additionally, an appeal may be made to the Privy Council in London. The islands’ rule of law continues to be tested by the prevalence of drug-related crime and corruption. Law enforcement, particularly the Delta Squad, has been accused of using excessive force when conducting periodic raids. The national prison remains severely overcrowded.

Legal and social discrimination against the LGBT community persists; same-sex sexual conduct between men is criminalized with prison sentences of up to 10 years.

 

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 13 / 16 (-1)

Eminent domain laws allow the government to seize private property and business, and the government does not always provide adequate and timely compensation.

While domestic violence is criminalized, violence against women remains a serious problem. Only one woman serves in the National Assembly. The government passed equal pay for equal work legislation in 2012.

 

 

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received

Y = Best Possible Score

Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology