Freedom in the World
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Freedom in the World Scores
St. Lucia is a democracy that holds regular elections and sees the periodic transfer of power between parties. Challenges include government corruption and transparency, police brutality and a perception of impunity for it, and discrimination against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people.
Key Developments in 2017:
- In June, the government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to cooperate on an initiative aimed at reducing youth violence and participation in crime.
- A lawmaker was awarded EC$40,000 (US$14,800) in damages in connection with libel cases filed against a journalist, a printing company, and a publishing company over a 2011 letter published in the Mirror that described the lawmaker as corrupt.
POLITICAL RIGHTS: 38 / 40 (–1)
A. ELECTORAL PROCESS: 11 / 12 (–1)
A1. Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4 / 4
The prime minister, usually the leader of the largest party in parliament, is head of government. They are appointed by the governor general, who represents the British monarch as head of state. Allen Chastanet of the United Workers Party (UWP) was chosen as prime minister following the 2016 legislative elections, and installed according to the standard legal procedures.
A2. Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4 / 4
Under the 1979 constitution, the bicameral Parliament consists of the 17-seat House of Assembly, whose members are directly elected to five-year terms, and the 11-seat Senate, whose members are appointed. The prime minister chooses 6 Senate members, the opposition leader selects 3, and 2 are chosen in consultation with civic and religious organizations.
The most recent elections to the House of Assembly took place in 2016. The polls were considered competitive and credible, and stakeholders accepted the results. The UWP secured 11 seats, defeating the governing Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), which took 6. Voter turnout was low, at about 53 percent.
A3. Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 3 / 4 (–1)
Electoral laws are generally fair, and implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies. However, the unbalanced size of constituencies has resulted in unequal voting power among citizens. While the largest constituency (Gros Islet) has 20,593 registered voters, the smallest (Dennery South) has only 5,005.
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because the unbalanced size of St. Lucia’s electoral districts allow unequal voting power among citizens.
B. POLITICAL PLURALISM AND PARTICIPATION: 16 / 16
B1. Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 4 / 4
Political parties may organize and operate freely. The country’s majoritarian, or “first-past-the-post” electoral system helps sustain two-party politics. While a number of small political parties operate, the UWP and SLP have dominated politics since the 1960s.
B2. Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4 / 4
There are realistic opportunities for opposition parties to increase their support or gain power through elections, and power has transferred regularly between the UWP and SLP.
B3. Are the people’s political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group that is not democratically accountable? 4 / 4
Voters and candidates are generally free to express their political choices without encountering undue influence from actors who are not democratically accountable. However, a lack of transparency surrounding party and election campaign financing raises concerns about the potential influence of unknown, powerful domestic and foreign interests on the country’s politics.
B4. Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 4 / 4
Women are underrepresented in politics, and won only two seats in the House of Assembly in the 2016 elections. Three members of the Senate are women.
The LGBT community is marginalized, and this impacts the ability of LGBT people to engage fully in political processes.
C. FUNCTIONING OF GOVERNMENT: 11 / 12
C1. Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 4 / 4
The elected prime minister, cabinet, and national legislative representatives freely determine the policies of the government.
C2. Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3 / 4
There are also several key state bodies that are responsible for combating corruption, such as the Parliamentary Commissioner, Auditor General, and Public Services Commission, but their effectiveness is somewhat restricted by a lack of resources.
Several high-level officials have faced corruption allegations recently. In 2016, the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal reinstated a claim against Prime Minister Chastanet that had been dismissed the year before. The claim, originally filed in 2013 and involving the 2011 general election, alleged breach of trust and misfeasance in public office. As of the end of 2017, the case had not yet been heard in the St. Lucian courts. And, in 2017, numerous corruption allegations against Guy Joseph, the current minister for economic development, housing, urban renewal, transport and civil aviation, surfaced in both the media and on the floor of the parliament. According to media reports, Joseph was among the targets of a bribery investigation involving an airport redevelopment project, which St. Lucian authorities had asked the United States to assist with.
C3. Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 4 / 4
The government of St. Lucia generally operates with openness and transparency. Access to information is legally guaranteed, and government officials are required by law to present their financial assets annually to the Integrity Commission.
CIVIL LIBERTIES: 53 / 60
D. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND BELIEF: 15 / 16
D1. Are there free and independent media? 3 / 4
The constitution of St. Lucia guarantees freedom of speech, and a number of private and independent news outlets discuss a wide spectrum of issues. However, criminal libel laws remain on the books, and convictions can draw heavy fines and a jail sentence of up to five years. In 2017, opposition lawmaker Philip Pierre was awarded EC$40,000 (US$14,800) in damages in libel cases filed against journalist Guy Ellis, the Mayers Printing Company, and Mirror Publishing Company, in connection with a 2011 letter to the editor published in the Mirror that described Pierre as corrupt.
D2. Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4 / 4
Freedom of religion is protected under the constitution and other laws. However, Rastafarians face various forms of discrimination.
D3. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4 / 4
Academic freedom is generally respected.
D4. Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4 / 4
Individuals are free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics.
E. ASSOCIATIONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL RIGHTS: 12 / 12
E1. Is there freedom of assembly? 4 / 4
The government generally respects the constitutionally protected right to free assembly. A number of protests took place peacefully in 2017, including several SLP-led events at which participants expressed opposition to government policies.
E2. Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights–and governance-related work? 4 / 4
Independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are free to operate.
E3. Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 4 / 4
Most workers have the right under the law to form and join independent unions, go on strike, and bargain collectively. Antiunion discrimination is prohibited.
F. RULE OF LAW: 12 / 16
F1. Is there an independent judiciary? 3 / 4
The judicial system is independent and includes a high court under the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC). St. Lucia announced in 2014 that it would adopt the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court of appeal, replacing the London-based Privy Council. However, its accession to the CCJ has not yet been finalized at the end of 2017.
F2. Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 3 / 4
Detainees and defendants are guaranteed a range of legal rights, which are mostly respected in practice. However, lengthy pretrial detention remains a problem. Defendants charged with serious crimes may spend up to six years in pretrial detention.
F3. Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 3 / 4
Police brutality has been seen as a significant problem in St. Lucia in recent years, and there is a widespread perception that members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) enjoy impunity for abusive behavior. In 2013, the United States cut aid to the RSLPF due to credible allegations of gross human rights violations related to 12 extrajudicial killings that took place in 2010 and 2011. The government responded by inviting an international investigation of the killings. Although the investigation was completed in 2014 and members of the RSLPF were seen as culpable, no legal action had been taken by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as of the end of 2017. As a consequence, through the end of 2017 St. Lucia remained excluded from military assistance from the United States under the Leahy Law, which prohibits all security-related assistance to the country as a result of what the United States views as serious abuse of human rights by security forces. In response to the 2014 investigation, the government did define a “use of force” policy for the RSLPF, and members were forced to undertake human rights training.
Separately, the government in June 2017 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to cooperate on an initiative aimed at reducing youth violence and participation in crime.
F4. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 3 / 4
No law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Same-sex sexual relations are illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison. People living with HIV/AIDS experience discrimination, and medical professionals do not always honor obligations to keep their health care information confidential. The Civil Code makes reference to legitimate and illegitimate children, which can permit discrimination against children and unwed mothers in civil and family law cases.
G. PERSONAL AUTONOMY AND INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS: 14 / 16
G1. Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 4 / 4
Individuals in St. Lucia enjoy freedom of movement, and may freely choose their place of employment, residence, and education.
G2. Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or non-state actors? 4 / 4
Individuals are free to own property and establish and conduct business. The government has actively encouraged both national and foreign investors to operate businesses in the country.
G3. Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 3 / 4
Domestic violence is a serious concern and often goes unreported, as does sexual assault. The law criminalizes rape, but it only criminalizes spousal rape when a couple is separated, or if the Family Court has issued a protection order.
G4. Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 3 / 4
Safety and other protections for workers are typically upheld, though St. Lucia has no minimum wage law.
St. Lucia’s government has made efforts to provide services to trafficking victims, but prosecutions are infrequent and the country’s national action plan against human trafficking has not been fully implemented. A lack of awareness of trafficking among some officials and members of the public contributes to the problem. Immigrants from Caribbean countries and from South Asia are particularly vulnerable to trafficking for the purposes of forced labor and sex work.