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World : Africa : Cape_Verde

In 1462, Portuguese settlers arrived at Santiago and founded Ribeira Grande (now Cidade Velha)--the first permanent European settlement city in the tropics. In the 16th century, the archipelago prospered from the transatlantic slave trade. Pirates occasionally attacked the Portuguese settlements. Sir Francis Drake sacked Ribeira Grande in 1585. After a French attack in 1712, the city declined in importance relative to Praia, which became the capital in 1770. With the decline in the slave trade, Cape Verde's early prosperity slowly vanished. However, the islands' position astride mid-Atlantic shipping lanes made Cape Verde an ideal location for resupplying ships. Because of its excellent harbor, Mindelo (on the island of São Vicente) became an important commercial center during the 19th century.

Portugal changed Cape Verde's status from a colony to an overseas province in 1951 in an attempt to blunt growing nationalism. Nevertheless, in 1956, Amilcar Cabral, a Cape Verdean, and a group of Cape Verdeans and Guinea-Bissauans organized (in Guinea-Bissau) the clandestine African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which demanded improvement in economic, social, and political conditions in Cape Verde and Portuguese Guinea and formed the basis of the two nations' independence movement. Moving its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea in 1960, the PAIGC began an armed rebellion against Portugal in 1961. Acts of sabotage eventually grew into a war in Portuguese Guinea that pitted 10,000 Soviet bloc-supported PAIGC soldiers against 35,000 Portuguese and African troops. By 1972, the PAIGC controlled much of Portuguese Guinea despite the presence of the Portuguese troops. The organization did not attempt to disrupt Portuguese control in Cape Verde. Following the April 1974 revolution in Portugal, however, the PAIGC became an active political movement in Cape Verde. In December 1974, the PAIGC and Portugal signed an agreement providing for a transitional government composed of Portuguese and Cape Verdeans. On June 30, 1975, Cape Verdeans elected a National Assembly, which received the instruments of independence from Portugal on July 5, 1975.

Immediately following the November 1980 coup in Guinea-Bissau (Portuguese Guinea declared independence in 1973 and was granted de jure independence in 1974), relations between the two countries became strained. Cape Verde abandoned its hope for unity with Guinea-Bissau and formed the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV). Problems have since been resolved, and relations between the countries are good. The PAICV and its predecessor established a one-party system and ruled Cape Verde from independence until 1990. Responding to growing pressure for pluralistic democracy, the PAICV called an emergency congress in February 1990 to discuss proposed constitutional changes to end one-party rule. Opposition groups came together to form the Movement for Democracy (MpD) in Praia in April 1990. Together, they campaigned for the right to contest the presidential election scheduled for December 1990. The one-party state was abolished September 28, 1990, and the first multi-party elections were held in January 1991. The MpD won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly, and the MpD presidential candidate Mascarenhas Monteiro defeated the PAICV's candidate by 73.5% of the votes. Legislative elections in December 1995 increased the MpD majority in the National Assembly. The party won 50 of the National Assembly's 72 seats. A February 1996 presidential election returned President Mascarenhas Monteiro to office. Legislative elections in January 2001 returned power to the PAICV. The PAICV now holds 40 of the National Assembly seats, MpD 30, and PCD and PTS 1 each. In February 2001, the PAICV-supported presidential candidate Pedro Pires defeated former MpD leader Carlos Veiga by only 13 votes.


Cape Verde has not provided data for any United Nations surveys of crime or for INTERPOL; however, an estimate of crime is given in the United States State Department's Consular Information Sheet. According to this source, petty thievery (especially in market areas) and burglary are common. Violent crime is rising, but it is low by regional standards.


Detailed information on Cape Verde's legal system has not yet been obtained; however, according to the CIA Factbook, its legal system is similar to that of Portugal, the parent country.


The police, which were controlled by the military in Cape Verde until 1994, are now separate and answerable to civilian authority. Detailed information on Cape Verde's police and police organization has not been obtained; however, the police in Cape Verde have been discussed in the 2001 Human Rights Report. According to the Human Rights Report, the Government controls the police, which has primary responsibility for maintenance of law and order. Some members of the police and prison guards have committed human rights abuses. The Constitution prohibits such practices; however, despite government efforts to control beatings by police, there have been credible reports that police continue to beat persons in custody and in detention. While mechanisms for investigating citizen complaints of police brutality exist in theory, in practice these mechanisms neither ensure the punishment of those responsible nor prevent future violations. In addition in some instances of violence against women, the police did not protect the victims effectively. There were reports that immigration authorities harassed Nigerian citizens. Following its January 2001 election, the Government began investigating allegations of human rights abuses by police; however, no subsequent action was taken. The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observes these prohibitions. The law stipulates that a suspect must be charged before a judge within 48 hours of arrest. Police may not make arrests without a court order unless a person is caught in the act of committing a felony. The courts have jurisdiction over state security cases, and there is a functioning system of bail.


The judicial system is composed of the Supreme Court and the regional courts. Of the five Supreme Court judges, one is appointed by the President, one by the National Assembly, and three by the Superior Judiciary Council. This council consists of the President of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, eight private citizens, two judges, two prosecutors, the senior legal inspector of the Attorney General's office, and a representative of the Ministry of Justice. Judges are independent and may not belong to a political party. In October 2000, a female judge who was known for taking strict legal measures in cases of domestic violence was transferred from the capital to the countryside. Separate courts hear civil, constitutional and criminal cases. Appeal is to the Supreme Court. Reforms to strengthen an overburdened judiciary were implemented in 1998. Free legal counsel is provided to indigents, defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and trials are public. Judges must lay charges within 24 hours of arrests.. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respects this provision in practice. The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial and due process, and an independent judiciary usually enforces this right. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of politicization and biased judgement in the judiciary. Cases involving former public office holders still are under investigation. For example, the investigations continued in the case of the former prime minister accused of embezzlement in the privatization of ENACOL (a parastatal oil supply firm) in which he allegedly embezzled approximately $16,250 (2 million Cape Verdean escudos) from the buyers of the parastatal. The case of four persons accused of church desecration in 1996 also was under investigation. These individuals filed a complaint with the Attorney General against the judiciary police for alleged fabrication of evidence.

The Constitution provides for the right to a fair trial. Defendants are presumed to be innocent; they have the right to a public, nonjury trial; to counsel; to present witnesses; and to appeal verdicts. Free counsel is provided for the indigent. Regional courts adjudicate minor disputes on the local level in rural areas. The Ministry of Justice does not have judicial powers; such powers lie with the courts.

The judiciary generally provides due process rights; however, the right to an expeditious trial is constrained by a seriously overburdened and understaffed judicial system. A backlog of cases routinely leads to trial delays of 6 months or more; more than 10,780 cases were pending at year's end. In addition the right of victims to compensation and recovery for pain and mental suffering are overlooked, due both to the low damage assessments imposed and ineffective enforcement of court sentences.


There are only about 600 inmates in Cape Verde's prisons, with a rate of about 150 per 100,000 population. Prison conditions are poor, and they are severely overcrowded. The former President's July 2000 amnesty did not reduce the overcrowding. Sanitation and medical assistance is poor; a doctor and a nurse were available and prisoners were taken to the public hospitals for serious problems. Psychological problems were common. Although women and men are held separately, juveniles are not held separately from adults, and pretrial detainees are not held separately from convicted prisoners. According to a 2000 study by the Ze Moniz Association (AZM), there were reports that guards abused female prisoners.


Domestic violence against women, including wife beating, remains common. The Government and civil society encourage women to report criminal offenses such as rape and spousal abuse to the police; however, longstanding social and cultural values inhibit victims from doing so, and according to the media, such reports remain rare. Nevertheless reporting of such crimes to police continue to increase and the media continue to report their occurrence. Violence against women has been the subject of extensive public service media coverage in both government- and opposition-controlled media. While mechanisms to deal with spousal abuse exist in theory, in practice these mechanisms neither ensure the punishment of all those responsible nor effectively prevent future violence. Women's organizations continue to seek legislation to establish a special family court to address crimes of domestic violence and abuse; however, they made no progress in achieving such legislation. In 1998 the Parliament revised the Penal Code, widening the definition of sexual abuse and strengthening penalties against abusers. The law protects certain rights of the victims; however, does not ensure the right of compensation.


Child abuse and mistreatment, sexual violence against children, and juvenile prostitution are problems, exacerbated by chronic poverty, large unplanned families, and traditionally high levels of emigration of adult men. The media have reported cases of sexual abuse against children and adolescents. The inefficiencies of the judicial system made it difficult for government institutions to address the problem.


The law does not prohibit trafficking in persons, and illegal trafficking in economic emigrants to various points in Europe is believed to be a thriving business. Visa and related fraud are involved in the trafficking of economic emigrants who are smuggled into Europe; however, there are no reports that these persons are trafficked into forced labor or debt bondage. The country is a transit point for traffickers, and trafficking has become a concern for local authorities. Several press reports noted that the police have arrested some persons, traffickers as well as victims. In 2000 such cases involved fewer than 30 persons. The Government was cooperating with European authorities, neighboring governments, and foreign embassies to deal with the problem.


Detailed information on drug trafficking for Cape Verde has not yet been located; however, according to the CIA Factbook, Cape Verde is used as a transshipment point for illicit drugs moving from Latin America and Africa destined for Western Europe.


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Dr. Robert Winslow
San Diego State University