The Seychelles islands remained uninhabited for more than 150 years after they became known to Western explorers. The island appeared on Portuguese charts as early 1505, although Arabs may have visited them much earlier. In 1742, the French Governor of Mauritius, Mahe de Labourdonais, sent an expedition to the islands. A second expedition in 1756 reasserted formal possession by France and gave the islands their present name in honor of the French finance minister under King Louis XV. The new French colony barely survived its first decade and did not begin to flourish until 1794, when Queau de Quincy became commandant.
The Seychelles islands were captured and freed several times during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, then passed officially to the British under the Treaty of Paris 1814.
From the date of its founding by the French until 1903, the Seychelles Colony was regarded as a dependency of Mauritius, which also passed from the French to British rule in 1814. In 1888, a separate administrator and executive and administrative councils were established for the Seychelles archipelago. Nine years later, the administrator acquired full powers of a British colonial governor, and on August 31, 1903, Seychelles became a separate British Crown Colony.
In March 1970, colonial and political representatives of Seychelles met in London for a constitutional convention. Elections in November 1970 brought a resulting constitution into effect. Further elections were held in April 1974, in which both major political parties campaigned for independence. Following this election, negotiations with the British resulted in an agreement by which Seychelles became a sovereign republic on June 29, 1976. These negotiations also restored the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar, and Des Roches, which had been transferred from Seychelles in November 1965 to form part of the new British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) to Seychelles upon independence.
By 1963, political parties had developed in the Seychelles colony. Elections held that year were contested for the first time on party lines. The following year, two new parties, the Seychelles Democratic Party (SDP) led by James Mancham, and the Seychelles People's Unity Party (SPUP) led by France Albert Rene, replaced existing parties. In the November 1970 elections, the SDP won 10 seats, and the SPUP won five in the Legislative Assembly. Under the new constitution, Mancham became the chief minister of the colony.
During the April 1974 elections, the SDP increased its majority in the Legislative Assembly by three seats, gaining all but two of the 15 seats. Demarcation of constituencies was such that the SDP achieved this majority by winning only 52% of the popular vote.
The SDP and SPUP formed a coalition government in June 1975 to lead Seychelles to independence. The British Government was asked to appoint an electoral review commission so that divergent views on the electoral system and composition of the legislature could be reconciled. As a result, 10 seats were added to the Legislative Assembly, five to be nominated by each party. A cabinet of ministers also was formed consisting of eight members of the SDP and four of the SPUP, with Chief Minister Mancham becoming prime minister. With independence on June 29, 1976, Mancham assumed the office of president and Rene became prime minister.
Although the coalition appeared to operate smoothly, political divisions between the two parties continued. On June 5, 1977, during Mancham's absence at the London Commonwealth Conference, supporters of Prime Minister Rene overthrew Mancham in a smoothly executed coup and installed Rene as president. President Rene suspended the constitution and dismissed the Parliament. The country was ruled by decree until June 1979, when a new constitution was adopted.
In November 1981, a group of mercenaries attempted to overthrow the Rene government but failed when they were detected at the airport and repelled. The government was threatened again by an army mutiny in August 1982, but it was quelled after 2 days when loyal troops, reinforced by Tanzanian forces, recaptured rebel-held installations.
After almost 16 years of one-party rule, President Rene announced a return to the multiparty system of government at an Extraordinary Congress of the SPPF on December 4, 1991. On December 27, 1991, the Constitution of Seychelles was amended to allow for the registration of political parties. Among the exiles returning to Seychelles was James Mancham, who returned in April 1992 to revive his party, the Democratic Party (DP). By the end of that month, eight political parties had registered to contest the first stage of the transition process: election to the Constitutional Commission, which took place on July 23-26, 1992.
The Constitutional Commission was made up of 22 elected members, 14 from the SPPF and eight from the DP. It commenced work on August 27, 1992 with both President Rene and Mancham calling for national reconciliation and consensus on a new democratic Constitution. A consensus text was agreed upon on May 7, 1993, and a referendum to approve it called for June 15-18. The draft was approved with 73.9% of the electorate in favor of it and 24.1% against.
July 23-26, 1993 saw the first multiparty presidential and legislative elections held under the new constitution, as well as a resounding victory for President Rene. Three political groups contested the elections--the SPPF, the DP, and the United Opposition (UO)--a coalition of three smaller political parties, including Parti Seselwa. Two other smaller opposition parties threw in their lot with the DP. All participating parties and international observer groups accepted the results as "free and fair."
Three candidates again contested the 1998 presidential election--Albert Rene, SPPF; James Mancham, DP; and Rev. Wavel Ramkalawan and once again President Rene and his SPPF party enjoyed a landslide victory. The President's popularity in March 20-22 elections jumped to 66.6% from 59.5% in 1993, while the SPPF garnered 61.7% of the total votes cast in the National Assembly election, compared to 56.5% in 1993.
Early presidential elections originally set for 2003 were called in August/September 2001. The Government Party SPPF once again prevailed, although the main Opposition Party, Seychelles National Party (previously known as the United Opposition Party) headed by Rev. Wavel Ramkalawan, made a surprisingly strong showing and collected 46% of the total votes. The DP, headed by Mr. Mancham, did not take part in the elections. Legislative elections held in December of 2002 saw the SPPF retain a strong majority in the National Assembly, winning a total of 23 of the 34 seats. The SNP won the remaining 9.
Seychelles confronts no external security threat. However, during the Cold War, Seychelles faced several threats from foreign powers interested in the country's strategic position astride the Indian Ocean's oil-tanker lanes. In particular, President France Albert René feared South African aggression. On at least two occasions, he accused South Africa of trying to overthrow his regime. Both incidents involved Colonel "Mad Mike" Hoare, a mercenary who allegedly had been acting on behalf of the South African government. The first coup attempt occurred in November 1979, when René announced that he had foiled a plot "sponsored from abroad with the cooperation of mercenaries standing ready in Durban." The authorities arrested but later released eighty coup plotters. Although a South African connection could not be ruled out, some Western observers believed the affair was French-inspired.
The second, more serious coup attempt occurred on November 25, 1981, when a group of forty-five European mercenaries, led by Colonel Hoare, arrived at Mahé International Airport on a commercial flight from Swaziland to overthrow the René regime. The Seychellois authorities quickly thwarted the coup attempt, known as Operation Anvil, and the mercenaries hijacked an Air India plane and forced the captain to fly them to Durban, South Africa. As soon as the aircraft arrived, the South African police arrested all the mercenaries. Several of the mercenaries, including Colonel Hoare, served time in jail for their involvement in Operation Anvil. On May 7, 1985, Colonel Hoare gained his freedom as a result of a general presidential pardon.
In the aftermath of Operation Anvil, there were indications that Pretoria and Victoria, the capital of Seychelles, had concluded a secret agreement. In exchange for the release of South African prisoners in Seychelles, the South African government promised to refrain from future actions against the René regime, help guarantee Seychellois security, and provide an indemnity payment to Seychelles. In July 1992, Pretoria announced that it would pay Victoria about 8 million rand in compensation for Operation Anvil. Since then, Seychellois-South African relations have improved to the point that, on November 8, 1993, the two countries established diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level.
In 1986 another coup attempt against the René regime occurred, supposedly involving the United States, France, and Britain. In addition to this foreign connection, the plot, known as Operation Distant Lash, included thirty mercenaries and some 350 partisans in Seychelles. The figurehead of this coup attempt was Minister of Defense Ogilvy Berlouis who reportedly was groomed to be the country's new pro-Western president. The security forces uncovered the conspiracy before the plotters could act and subsequently arrested Berlouis. Also, the government forced several Seychelles People's Liberation Army (SPLA) officers to resign.
In July 1987, British police uncovered yet another plot to overthrow the René regime and to abduct leading members of the South African opposition movement, the African National Congress (ANC), who were based in London. The authorities eventually arrested four men and charged them with conspiracy to kidnap the ANC members; the charges were later withdrawn because of insufficient evidence.
Since independence numerous internal threats against the Seychellois government have arisen. After overthrowing James Mancham's regime on June 5, 1977, René quickly established a socialist one-party state, censored the rival newspaper, and abolished religious fee-paying schools. Additionally, René created an army and a large security apparatus for the first time in the country's history. Such controversial policies caused considerable popular resentment against the René regime.
Resentment caused thousands of Seychellois to go into exile and to organize an array of opposition groups seeking to overthrow René. In April 1978, some of James Mancham's followers unsuccessfully tried to overthrow the government when René was on a state visit to North Korea and the PRC. The Movement for Resistance (Mouvement pour la Résistance), which sought to restore democracy in Seychelles, indicated that about 100 of its members had financed the November 1981 coup attempt. The Seychelles Liberation Committee, established in 1979 by exiles in Paris, also wanted to remove René and abolish his one-party state. The Seychelles National Movement maintained that it was a broad-based opposition group with followers in Seychelles, Britain, and Australia. The Seychelles Popular Anti-Marxist Front (SPAMF) declared that it had unsuccessfully tried to persuade the South African government to support a SPAMF coup attempt against René. Most Western observers believed that, notwithstanding the November 1981 coup attempt, these exile organizations had little chance of effecting a change of government in Seychelles, largely because they had few supporters in the country and minimal resources. With the end of the Cold War and the emergence of multiparty politics in Seychelles, the external and internal threats against the René regime have dissipated.
The overall performance of the economy since independence must be considered satisfactory. Per capita income has increased seven-fold from some $1,000 in 1976 to $7,600 today. The economy rests on tourism and fishing. Presently, tourism accounts for about 12.7% of the GDP and the manufacturing and construction sectors, including industrial fishing, account for about 28.8%. In 2000, industrial fishing surpassed tourism as the most important foreign exchange earner.
Tourism is one of the most important sectors of the economy, accounting for approximately 16.6% (2000) of GDP. Employment, foreign earnings, construction, banking, and commerce are all dominated by tourism-related industries. Tourism earned $631 million in 1999-2000. About 96,000 tourists visited Seychelles in 2002, 80.1% of them from Europe (U.K., Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland).
Industrial fishing in Seychelles, notably tuna fishing, is rapidly becoming a significant factor in the economy. Earnings are growing annually from licensing fees paid by foreign trawlers fishing in Seychelles' territorial waters. In 1995, Seychelles saw the privatization of the Seychelles Tuna Canning Factory, 60% of which was purchased by the American food company Heinz Inc. Similarly, some port operations have been privatized, a trend that has been accompanied by a fall in transshipment fees and an increase in efficiency. Overall, this has sparked a recovery in port services following a drastic fall in 1994.
While the tourism and industrial fishing industries were on a roll in the late 1990s, the traditional plantation economy atrophied. Cinnamon barks and copra--traditional export crops--dwindled to negligible amounts by 1991. There were no exports of copra in 1996; 318 tons of cinnamon bark was exported in 1996, reflecting a decrease of 35% in cinnamon bark exports from 1995.
Despite attempts to improve its agricultural base and emphasize locally manufactured products and indigenous materials, Seychelles continues to import 90% of what it consumes. The exceptions are some fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, pork, beer, cigarettes, paint, and a few locally made plastic items. Imports of all kind are controlled by the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB), a government parastatal which operates all the major supermarkets and is the distributor and licensor of most other imports.
In an effort to increase agricultural self-sufficiency, Seychelles has undertaken steps to make the sector more productive and to provide incentives to farmers. Much of the state holdings in the agricultural sector have been privatized, while the role of the government has been reduced to conducting research and providing infrastructure.
Many of the other industrial activities are limited to smallscale manufacturing, particularly agro-processing and import substitution. Agriculture (including artisanal and forestry), once the backbone of the economy, now accounts for only around 3% of the GDP. The public sector, comprising the government and state-owned enterprises, dominates the economy in terms of employment and gross revenue. It employs two-thirds of the labor force. Public consumption absorbs over one-third of the GDP.
The country’s economy is extremely vulnerable to external shocks. Not only does it depend on tourism, but it imports more than 90% of its total primary and secondary production inputs. Any decline in tourism quickly translates into a fall in GDP, a decline in foreign exchange receipts, and budgetary difficulties. Furthermore, recent changes in the climate have greatly affected the tuna industry.
The Central Bank estimates that the Seychelles economy grew by around 1.4% in real terms in 2000. Despite a foreign exchange problem, which affected primarily the manufacturing industry, the economy still grew thanks largely to a rebound in the tourism industry and the strength of the fishing sector. Tourism arrivals, one of the two main indicators of vitality in the sector, grew by 4.1% in 2000. Income also rose by 0.6%. A strong marketing effort by the Seychelles Tourism Marketing Authority (STMA) and the introduction of several new five-star hotels seems to have spurred the growth. Officials hope that new hotels on the drawing board and expanded airline service to the island will help offset the possibility of reduced global travel in the current environment.
In 2000, there also were encouraging performances in other sectors of service, namely the telecommunications sector, where the boom in mobile services continues to persist. According to the Telecommunications division of the Ministry of Information Technology and Communication, one in every four Seychellois now owns a mobile phone.
The Ministry of Finance is responsible for economic decisions and budgetary policy. A separate Monetary Authority supervises the banking system and manages the money supply. Although foreign banks operate branches in Seychelles, the government owns the two local banks--the Development Bank of Seychelles, which mobilizes resources to fund development programs, and the Seychelles Saving Bank, a bank for savings and current accounts. The commercial banking sector is presently made up of the following:
- Barclays Bank PLC;
- Banque Francaise Commercial Ocean Indien;
- Bank of Baroda;
- Habib bank; and
- Seychelles International Mercantile Credit Banking Corporation (SIMBC) trading under the name "Nouvobanq".
The first four are branches of foreign banks and the latter is a joint venture between the Seychelles Government and the Standard Chartered Bank African PLC. Commercial banks offer the full range of services
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.
In the past, the Government did not demonstrate favoritism toward one religion over another; however, in early 2000, the SNP, which is led by an Anglican minister, claimed that the Government gave a grant of $164,000 (SR 900,000) to the Baha'i Faith in 1999, following its incorporation. According to the SNP, this grant has not been offered to other faiths that have been established recently in the country. According to the Government, $192,000 (SR 1 million) of the national budget is allocated to provide assistance to faiths that request it. The grant to the Baha'i Faith was for the purpose of building a temple, and in the past, the Anglican, Hindu and Roman Catholic faiths have benefited from government grants.
The crime rate in Seychelles is compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Seychelles. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Seychelles will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2001 was 3.71 per 100,000 population for Seychelles, 1.05 for Japan, and 5.61 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2001 was 78.79 for Seychelles, compared with 1.75 for Japan and 31.77 for USA. (Note: rape data were drawn from UN for year 2000 for Seychelles) For robbery, the rate in 2001 was 17.32 for Seychelles, 5.02 for Japan, and 148.50 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2001 was 180.65 for Seychelles, 26.68 for Japan, and 318.55 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2001 was 58.15 for Seychelles, 238.59 for Japan, and 740.80 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2001 was 1007.12 for Seychelles, 1550.41 for Japan, and 2484.64 for USA (Note: larceny data for Seychelles drawn from UN for year 1999). The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2001 was 1.24 for Seychelles, compared with 49.71 for Japan and 430.64 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 1346.98 for Seychelles, compared with 1873.21 for Japan and 4160.51 for USA.
TRENDS IN CRIME
Between 1996 and 2001, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 1.33 to 3.71 per 100,000 population, an increase of 178.9%. The rate for rape increased from 17.33 to 78.79, an increase of 354.6%. The rate of robbery decreased from 61.33 to 17.32, a decrease of 71.8%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 142.67 to 180.65, an increase of 26.6%. The rate for burglary decreased from 916 to 58.15, a decrease of 93.7%. The rate of larceny increased from 280 to 1007.12, an increase of 259.75. The rate of motor vehicle theft decreased from 40.9 to 1.24, a decrease of 97%. The rate of total index offenses decreased from 1459.56 to 1346.98, a decrease of 7.7%.
The three-tiered judicial system consists of magistrates' or small claims courts, the Supreme (or trial) Court, and the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal hears appeals from the Supreme Court in both civil and criminal cases. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction of first instance as well as acting as an appeals court from the magistrates' courts. The system is based on English common law, with influences of the Napoleonic Code (e.g., in tort and contract matters), and customary law. Criminal cases are heard in magistrates' courts or the Supreme Court depending on the seriousness of the charge. Juries are called only in cases of murder or treason. Normal legal protections are extended to defendants. They include public trials, the right of the accused to be present, and the accused's right to confront witnesses, to appeal, to qualify for bail in most cases, and to be represented by counsel, on a pro bono basis if indigent. Judges from other Commonwealth countries--mostly African or Asian--are employed on a contract basis. Judges remain independent from influence by the executive in spite of occasional government pressure.
Under the penal code, a detained person must be brought before a magistrate within forty-eight hours. Before repeal of the Public Security Act in 1992, persons could be detained indefinitely on security charges. The president still has broad personal powers to detain persons regarded as security threats. Since 1989 only a few brief detentions have been reported, all under the Public Security Act.
Much progress in human rights has occurred since political freedoms were restored in 1992. Both military and police engaged in physical harassment of members of opposition parties before the 1992 election of constitutional delegates, but later elections were free of intimidation. The government's control of jobs, housing, and land enables it to reward supporters and discourage dissent. Legislation still on the books brings the risk of prosecution and imprisonment for publishing defamatory material against the president or for publishing or possessing publications banned by the government for security reasons. The close association of the armed forces with the SPPF represents a further threat to the full exercise of political rights. In an attempt to mollify domestic and foreign critics, René removed the deputy secretary general of the SPPF as chief of staff of the defense forces in 1992.
The number of crimes and other offenses reported in 1990 was 4,564, of which 35 percent involved violations of traffic ordinances. Thefts, burglaries, housebreaking, and other forms of stealing made up most of the remaining 1,559 offenses. There were five cases of homicide; thirteen cases of rape and indecent assault; 634 aggravated or common assaults; 287 offenses against property such as trespass and arson; and 403 incidents of disorderly conduct. The general trend appears to be downward, although the sharpest decline is in vehicular offenses. Theft in tourist hotels is said to be on the rise. Juvenile delinquency-- linked to boredom and isolation--is a growing problem.
Official statistics are not available on sentencing or the prison population. The United States Department of State described living conditions at the Police Bay prison as spartan but said that in 1993 both SPPF and opposition members drafting the constitution had been allowed, to visit and found conditions satisfactory. Weekly family visits are allowed, and inmates have access to printed materials.
As of year 2001, the President has complete control over the security apparatus, which includes a national guard force, the army, the Presidential Protection Unit, the coast guard, the marines, and the police. There also is an armed paramilitary Police Mobile Unit. Security forces on occasion were responsible for some human rights abuses.
The Seychelles People's Defense Force (SPDF) consist of the SPLA, a people's navy, and a people's air force. In December 1992, the government amalgamated the Seychelles People's Navy and the Seychelles People's Air Force to form the Seychelles Coast Guard. Each service commander reports to the armed forces chief of staff, who is responsible to the commander in chief, René. The president also retains the minister of defense portfolio. The Defence Forces Council, which is chaired by the armed forces chief of staff, manages the SPDF.
The 1,000-man SPLA comprises one infantry battalion, two artillery troops, and one support company. The army possesses six BDRN and eight Shorland reconnaissance vehicles, four BTR-152 armored personnel carriers, three D-130 122-mm towed artillery pieces, two BM-21 122-mm multiple rocket launchers, six M-43 82- mm mortars, ten SA-7 surface-to-air missiles, and an unknown number of RPG-7 rocket launchers. The SPLA's mission includes defending the nation's territorial integrity and, when necessary, assisting the People's Militia in preserving domestic law and order. Because much of its equipment requires maintenance work, the army has minimal capabilities. Western observers believe that the army would be ineffective against a professional military force.
The 100-member air wing of the coast guard operates one Britten-Norman BN-2A Maritime Defender and a Cessna A-150 Aerobat trainer. The former aircraft, which the British government donated in 1980, patrols the EEZ, which extends over an area of almost 1 million square kilometers. The Britten-Norman, which normally operates in conjunction with patrol boats from the navy wing of the coast guard, searches for vessels conducting illegal fishing and smuggling activities. The aircraft also conducts light transport, search and rescue, and medical evacuation missions. The air wing is the most effective service with equipment in good operating condition.
The navy wing of the coast guard, based in Port Victoria, owns one Topaz coastal patrol boat, one Andromache, one Zoroaster, and two Zhuk inland patrol boats, and one amphibious landing craft. The navy wing patrols the country's EEZ and conducts antidrug and search and rescue missions. The navy wing's effectiveness is extremely limited, largely because it rarely has more than two of its vessels operational at one time.
The People's Militia has existed since the beginning of the René regime. On June 10, 1977, the president called for volunteers to register for training in the People's Militia, which was to guard against a countercoup by James Mancham. By the early 1990s, the 800-member People's Militia consisted largely of untrained and unfit volunteers. Its mission is to defend the country from external aggression and preserve the revolution. In June 1989, René assumed overall control of the People's Militia while the chief of staff is responsible for running it on a dayto -day basis. The People's Militia is divided into five military regions (north, central, west, south Mahé, and Praslin). Most Western observers consider the People's Militia a totally ineffective force.
The national police, which is organized along British lines and commanded by a police commissioner, includes a regular 500- member unit and a sixty-member paramilitary mobile unit. Members of the force normally are unarmed but mobile unit personnel are equipped with modern weapons, including 7-62 SLR rifles. For operational and administrative purposes, Seychelles is divided into the Central Police Division, which comprises the capital; North Police Division; South Police Division; and the Praslin/La Digue Police Division. A senior police officer commands each of these formations. Seychelles maintains a total of seventeen police stations in all divisions. The police organization includes headquarters, Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Special Force (Police Mobile Unit), general duties, and special branch. A commandant manages the police training school at Praslin. This school provides fifteen-week and refresher training courses for recruits, two-week supervisory officers' courses, two-week promotion courses, and four-week basic courses. Each district also has field training. Most Western observers agree that the national police are under strength and poorly paid. As a result, the police have limited military value.
René maintains a 300-man Presidential Guard for his own protection. This unit, which includes an unknown number of European mercenaries, possesses high-quality personnel and weapons.
Information about Seychelles defense spending is limited. The 1991 defense expenditures, which were decided by René, amounted to approximately US$16 million.
In year 2001, there were no reports of the arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life by the Government or its agents. There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
The Constitution expressly forbids torture; however, while there were no reported instances of the use of torture by the security forces, there was a report that police beat a man while he was in police custody in March 2000 on the island of La Digue. The family of the detainee sued the Commissioner of Police and the three police officers on duty at the time for $4,386 (SR 25,000) in damages. Both a criminal and a civil suit have been filed; the first hearing in the case is scheduled for 2002.
In May, 2001, on the island of Praslin, several plainclothes police officers used tear gas to disperse forcibly a group of soccer players and their fans who had gathered on the field to celebrate their victory; there were no reports of any injuries (see Sections 1.d. and 2.b.).
The Government is unlikely to investigate or punish those members of the security forces who allegedly tortured suspects in custody in 1998. Some cases that were brought against the Government and the army are unlikely to be resolved.
The Constitution provides for the right to privacy and freedom from arbitrary searches. The law requires a warrant for police searches and seizures; however, there were reports that members of the police drug squad entered homes and detained persons without a warrant. The law requires that all electronic surveillance be justified on the grounds of preventing a serious crime and approved by a judge. The Government maintained telephone surveillance of some political figures.
Some members of opposition parties claimed that they lost their government jobs because of their political beliefs and are at a disadvantage when applying for government licenses and loans.
The Constitution provides that persons arrested must be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours with allowances made for boat travel from distant islands. The law provides for detention without charge for up to 7 days if authorized by court order. Defense attorneys have asserted that extended periods of detention under harsh conditions were used to extort confessions from suspects, but there were no such incidents reported in during the year. Police occasionally detained individuals on a Friday or Saturday in order to allow for a longer period of detention without charge, thereby avoiding compliance with the Constitution's 24-hour "charge or release" provision. The police released such persons on a Monday before the court could rule on a writ of habeas corpus.
In May on the island of Praslin, several plainclothes police officers used tear gas to disperse forcibly a group of soccer players and their fans that had gathered on the field to celebrate their victory. Soldiers arrested and detained for 1 day approximately 20 players and fans at local police stations. Although the players and fans faced possible charges of disturbing the peace, no charges were filed as a result of the incident. However, some members of the football team were suspended for life and others were suspended for varying amounts of time. This particular football club is known to have links with the opposition party (see Sections 1.c. and 2.b.).
Detainees have the right of access to legal counsel, but security forces, in hopes of eliciting a confession or other information, sometimes withhold this right. Free counsel was provided to the indigent. Bail was available for most offenses.
Several persons have brought civil cases against the police for unlawful arrest or entry, with limited success. There were reports during the year that members of the police drug squad entered homes and detained persons without a warrant (see Section 1.f.).
The law prohibits forced exile, and the Government does not employ it. Following the 1977 coup, a number of persons went into voluntary exile, and others were released from prison with the condition that they leave the country immediately. A number of these former exiles that returned to the country were able to reacquire their property; however, several claims remained in the court system at year's end.
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, it is inefficient, lacks resources, and is subject to executive interference.
The judicial system includes magistrates' courts, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, and the Court of Appeal. The Constitutional Court convenes weekly or as necessary to consider constitutional issues only. The Court of Appeal convenes three times per year for 2 weeks in April, August, and October to consider appeals from the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court only.
All judges are appointed for 7 years and can be reappointed by the President on the recommendation of the Constitutional Appointment Committee. All sitting judges were hired from other Commonwealth countries, including Mauritius, India, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and Zambia; none are citizens, with the exception of the Chief Justice, who is a naturalized citizen. The Seychelles Bar Association has criticized the Government for not advertising domestically that judicial positions are available, since 30 citizens practice law either domestically or abroad. Some observers criticized expatriate judges for a perceived lack of sensitivity on issues such as human rights. Legal entities of the Government, such as the Attorney General's Office and the Ombudsman, are reluctant to pursue charges of wrongdoing or abuse of power against senior officials.
Defendants generally have the right to a fair trial. Depending on the gravity of the offense, criminal cases are heard by magistrates' court or the Supreme Court. A jury is used in cases involving murder or treason. Trials are public, and the accused is considered innocent until proven guilty. Defendants have the right to counsel, to be present at their trial, to confront witnesses, and to appeal.
The Seychellois penal system is based on English common law and Napoleonic civil law. The judiciary system includes the Supreme Court and an Appeals Court. The president also exercises quasi-judicial powers, especially in national security cases. Seychellois law requires that military personnel be tried by court martial unless the president decrees otherwise.
The courts often sentence criminals to the Grand Police Camp, a high security prison run by the army on Mahé Island. Amnesty International reports that prison authorities often require prisoners to perform excessively strenuous labor.
Conditions at the Long Island prison, the only such facility in the country, remained Spartan. With approximately 166 inmates, the prison was considered overcrowded; however, no prisoners were released during the year to alleviate overcrowding. Prisoners have access to medical care. Family members were allowed monthly visits, and prisoners have access to reading but not writing materials. Men are held separately from women, and juveniles are held separately from adults. There were no reports of abuse of women or juveniles by guards or other inmates.
There is no regular system of independent monitoring of prisons; however, local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) were allowed to visit. At least one visit was conducted during the year.
Domestic violence against women, particularly wife beating, remains a problem and increased during the year. Police seldom intervene in domestic disputes, unless the dispute involves a weapon or major assault. The few cases that reach a prosecutor often were dismissed, or, if a case reached court, the perpetrator usually was given only a light sentence. Rape, spousal rape, and domestic abuse are criminal offenses. Between January and October, the Probation Services recorded 91 domestic violence cases against women. A survey of six church parishes conducted in 1999 by the Association for the Promotion of Solid Humane Families, an NGO, revealed that 25 percent of those surveyed stated that they had been victims of domestic violence, confirming the general belief that the problem is more widespread than official statistics indicate. Participants in the NGO survey stated that alcohol was one of the main causes of domestic violence. There was growing societal concern about domestic violence and increased recognition of the need to address it. During the year, local NGO's sponsored awareness campaigns and training programs for women and girls.
The society is largely matriarchal, with 75 percent of births out-of-wedlock in 2000. There were no reports of societal discrimination against unwed mothers, and fathers are required by law to support their children. The age of consent was lowered from 16 to 14 in 1993, and 13 percent of all births in 2000 occurred to women under 20 years of age. Girls are not allowed to attend school when they are pregnant, and many do not return to school after the birth of a child. There is no officially sanctioned discrimination in employment, and women are well represented in business. Inheritance laws do not discriminate against women.
The law protects children from physical abuse. The Division of Social Affairs in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Manpower Development works to protect children's rights. Children are required to attend school through the 10th grade and until the age of 16 or 17, depending on what age they are when they finish the 10th grade. Free public education is available through the secondary level until age 18. Parents contribute up to two-thirds of the cost of post-secondary education and training based on their income for both in country and overseas schools. According to government figures, all children between the ages of 6 and 16 attend school, and the enrollment of boys and girls is roughly equal. The National Youth Service was disbanded in January 1999 and replaced with a noncompulsory fifth year of secondary school. After completing secondary school, students can go to the Polytechnic School for Vocational Training, abroad for university studies, or to apprenticeship or short-term work programs. Children in the latter programs received a training stipend, which was less than the minimum wage.
An 18-member Family Tribunal heard and decided all matters relating to the care, custody, access, and maintenance of children, except paternity cases, which remain under the courts. In the previous year, approximately 2,850 cases were presented to the Tribunal. Approximately 14 percent of all cases presented to the Family Tribunal were resolved during the first hearing. The Family Tribunal also was responsible for collecting and disbursing child support payments made by family members. In June it was reported that as much as $173,077 (SR 900,000) was missing from the child support funds. The Ministry of Social Affairs opened an investigation into the matter.
Sexual abuse of children, usually in low-income families, was a problem, although only 36 cases of sexual abuse of girls and 6 involving boys were reported by year's end. Ministry of Health data and press reports indicate that there are a significant number of rapes committed against girls under the age of 15. Very few child abuse cases actually were prosecuted in court. The strongest public advocate for young victims is a semiautonomous agency, the National Council for Children. There was criticism that the police failed to investigate vigorously charges of child abuse.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
The law prohibits trafficking in persons, and there were no reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country.
The Seychelles is a growing offshore financial center and, consequently, has the potential to develop into a significant drug money laundering center, although there is little concrete evidence of such money laundering at present. The Seychelles produces a small amount of cannabis, primarily for domestic use. It is not thought to be a significant transshipment route for narcotics, although it is a destination for cannabis smuggled from Madagascar. The 1995 Economic Development Act, which would have provided major investors the right to launder money, as well as protection from extradition and asset seizures, remains on the books, but has not been brought into force. The government has provided assurances that this law will remain inactive. A 1996 law criminalized money laundering, but it is unclear how energetically this legislation is being implemented. The government provided the infrastructure for an NGO-operated drug treatment facility, which opened in November. The Seychelles ratified the 1988 UN Drug Convention in 1992. Seychelles is a successor party to a 1931 U.S.-UK Extradition Treaty.
Internet research assisted by Melissa Francescut