WASHINGTON, DC – The “most serious” human right problems in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in 2011 were “police use of excessive force, poor prison conditions, and violence against women”, according to the Unites States’ 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released on Thursday.
“Other human rights problems included official corruption, lack of government transparency, discrimination, trafficking in persons, and child abuse,” according the report, which said that the country generally respected human rights last year.
But the inclusion in the report of “trafficking in persons” — human trafficking — is expected to receive a strong response from the Unity Labour Party government in Kingstown and its diplomatic personnel in the United States.
SVG has annually protested against its association with trafficking in persons.
The government and Vincentian envoys have repeatedly said that the United States does not provide evidence of such crimes taking places on Vincentian soil.
The report said that in 2011 there were no reports that the Vincentian government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
It, however, noted that police officers, in the line of duty, shot and killed a Dominican man on July 13 after the Coast Guard intercepted his vessel and he allegedly fired a weapon.
It also mentioned that police shot and killed on Dec. 11 escaped prisoner Godwin Moses, who was suspected of murdering dental technician Ewart “Ells” King earlier that month.
The report also noted that police constable Rohan McDowall reneged a plea bargain that would have seen him charged with manslaughter rather than murder in connection with the August 2010 shooting death inside the Biabou police Station of fellow officer Kingsley John.
The Director of Public Prosecution, who had made the deal with the cop, subsequently charged McDowall with murder again after he reneged the plea bargain.
The report said that in 2011 there were no reports of politically motivated disappearances, and that the government “generally observed” legal prohibitions against arbitrary arrest and detention even as it quoted the Human Rights Association in Kingstown as having asserted that the police used excessive force.
It said the government “generally respected judicial independence in practice”, and added that the judiciary was “independent [and] impartial” in civil matters.
The state “generally respected … in practice” prohibitions against arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence.
The report said that the government respected the constitutional and legal guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press.
“An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to ensure freedom of speech and of the press,” the report stated.
It, however, also said “there continued to be accounts of the prime minister or other officials rebuking the press for comments critical of the government, spurring some reports of self-censorship”.
Vincentians continued to enjoy Internet freedom, with no credible reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms.
“Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail,” according to the report, which also said there were no restrictions on academic, cultural, political, peaceful assembly and association and other rights, and that there was an absence of forced labour.