At the time of European discovery, Carib Indians inhabited the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis. Christopher Columbus landed on the larger island in 1493 on his second voyage and named it after St. Christopher, his patron saint. Columbus also discovered Nevis on his second voyage, reportedly calling it Nevis because of its resemblance to a snowcapped mountain (in Spanish, "nuestra senora de las nieves" or our lady of the snows). European colonization did not begin until 1623-24, when first English, then French colonists arrived on St. Christopher's Island, whose name the English shortened to St. Kitt's Island. As the first English colony in the Caribbean, St. Kitts served as a base for further colonization in the region.
The English and French held St. Kitts jointly from 1628 to1713. During the 17th century, intermittent warfare between French and English settlers ravaged the island's economy. Meanwhile Nevis, settled by English settlers in 1628, grew prosperous under English rule. St. Kitts was ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The French seized both St. Kitts and Nevis in 1782.
The Treaty of Paris in 1783 definitively awarded both islands to Britain. They were part of the colony of the Leeward Islands from 1871-1956, and of the West Indies Federation from 1958-62. In 1967, together with Anguilla, they became a self-governing state in association with Great Britain; Anguilla seceded late that year and remains a British dependency. The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis attained full independence on September 19, 1983.
St. Kitts and Nevis was the last sugar monoculture in the Eastern Caribbean. Faced with a sugar industry that was finding it increasingly difficult to earn a profit, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis embarked on a program to diversify the agricultural sector and stimulate the development of other sectors of the economy.
The government instituted a program of investment incentives for businesses considering the possibility of locating in St. Kitts or Nevis, encouraging both domestic and foreign private investment. Government policies provide liberal tax holidays, duty-free import of equipment and materials, and subsidies for training provided to local personnel. Tourism has shown the greatest growth. By 1987, tourism had surpassed sugar as the major foreign exchange earner for St. Kitts and Nevis.
The economy of St. Kitts and Nevis experienced strong growth for most of the 1990s but hurricanes in 1998 and 1999 contributed to a sharp slowdown. Real economic growth was 0.75 % in 2002 after a decline of 4.3 % in 2001. The economy experienced a mixed performance during 2002, with some sectors experiencing positive growth while others experienced varying levels of decline. The construction sector recorded a 4.51 % decline, manufacturing and hotels and restaurants also recorded significant declines of 4.01 and 9.89 % respectively, and sugar production fell by 5.1 %. Significant new investment in tourism, including a 648-room Marriott hotel and convention center that opened in December 2002, as well as continued government efforts to diversify the economy, are expected to improve economic performance. Consumer prices have risen marginally over the past few years. The inflation rate was 3%-4% for most of the 1990s.
St. Kitts and Nevis is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues a common currency for all members of the ECCU. The ECCB also manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries.
St. Kitts is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications (ECTEL) authority, which is developing the regulations to liberalize the telecommunications sector in the region by 2004.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
The crime rate in Saint Kitts & Nevis is medium compared to industrialized countries, with the important exception of murder. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Saint Kitts & Nevis. 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. Saint Kitts & Nevis 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 1999 was 12.00 per 100,000 population for Saint Kitts & Nevis, 1.00 for Japan, and 4.55 for USA. For rape, the rate in 1999 was 26.00 for Saint Kitts & Nevis, compared with 1.47 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 1999 was 132.00 for Saint Kitts & Nevis, 3.34 for Japan, and 147.36 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 1999 was 434.00 for Saint Kitts & Nevis, 15.97 for Japan, and 329.63 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 1999 was 1790.00 for Saint Kitts & Nevis, 206.01 for Japan, and 755.29 for USA. The rate of larceny for 1999 was 12.00 for Saint Kitts & Nevis, 1267.95 for Japan, and 2502.66 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 1999 was not given in the Interpol report. The rate for all index offenses combined was 2406.00 for Saint Kitts & Nevis, compared with 1529.75 for Japan and 4184.24 for USA. (Note: data were not reported to INTERPOL by the USA for 1999, but were derived from data reported to the United Nations for 1999)
TRENDS IN CRIME
Between 1996 and 1999, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 8.89 to 12.00 per 100,000 population, an increase of 35%. The rate for rape decreased from 40.00 to 26.00, a decrease of 35%. The rate of robbery decreased from 175.56 to 132.00, an decrease of 24.8%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 524.44 to 434.00, an decrease of 17.2%. The rate for burglary decreased from 2224.44 to 1790.00, an decrease of 19.5%. The rate of larceny decreased from 1448.89 to 12.00, a decrease of 99.2%. The rate of motor vehicle theft data was not reported for either 1996 or 1999. The rate of total index offenses decreased from 4422.22 to 2406.00, a decrease of 45.6%.
The security forces consist of a small police force, including a 30-person Special Services Unit that received some light infantry training, a coast guard, and a small defense force. Military forces patrolled jointly with the police. The civilian authorities maintained effective control of the security forces. Some members of the security forces committed human rights abuses.
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally observed these prohibitions.
The police force consists of 370 officers (72 officers in Nevis), with 27 auxiliary members. Senior officers investigated complaints against members of the police force, and criminal offenses are referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The police force continued to conduct its own internal investigation when complaints were made against its members. There were 27 complaints filed during the year, resulting in 10 warnings to police, 3 disciplinary actions, and 1 dismissal.
Starting in July, officers received human rights training based on resources provided by the International Red Cross.
Police may arrest a person based on the suspicion of criminal activity; warrants are not required. The law requires that persons detained be charged within 48 hours or be released. If charged, the police must bring a detainee before a court within 72 hours. There is a functioning system of bail. Family members, attorneys, and clergy were permitted to visit detainees regularly.
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision in practice.
The court system includes a high court and four magistrate's courts at the local level, with the right of appeal to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal. Final appeal may be made to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.
The Constitution provides that every person accused of a crime must receive a fair, speedy, and public trial, and these requirements generally were observed. Defendants have the right to be present and to consult with counsel in a timely manner. Free legal assistance was available for indigent defendants in capital cases only.
As of September, there were 75 persons in pretrial detention. The length of pretrial detention varied according to offense and charges; persons may be held for days, weeks, or months. In April, authorities tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by hanging Joseph Hazel. Hazel had been in pretrial detention since 2001 for the 2000 murder of Tony Fetherston. At year's end, his sentence was under appeal.
In December 2003, the legislature passed legislation to empower the courts to pass noncustodial sentencing such as discharges, suspended sentences, probation orders, and community service orders.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
Prisons were overcrowded, and resources remained limited. The prison on Saint Kitts had a capacity for 155 prisoners but held 183 prisoners at year's end; some prisoners slept on mats on the floor. A low-security prison on Nevis held 35 inmates. Corporal punishment is legal; a court can order that an accused person receive lashes if found guilty. The prison provided voluntary work and education programs. The prison staff periodically received training in human rights.
Unlike in 2003, there were no reported deaths in prison during the year.
Female inmates were held separately from male prisoners, and juveniles were segregated from adult prisoners. Pretrial detainees were held separately from convicted prisoners.
The Government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, and such visits occurred during the year. In addition, the Ministry of National Security appointed "visiting justices," who volunteered to oversee the treatment of prisoners.
Violence against women was a problem. The Domestic Violence Act criminalizes domestic violence, including emotional abuse, and provides penalties of up to $5,000 (EC$13,500) and/or 6 months in prison for abusers. Although many women were reluctant to file complaints or pursue them in the courts, there were publicly reported cases of both domestic violence and rape and a few convictions. The Department of Gender Affairs, under the Ministry of Social Development, Community, and Gender Affairs, was active in the areas of domestic violence, spousal abuse, and abandonment. It offered counseling for victims of abuse and conducted training on domestic violence and gender violence for officials of the police and fire departments, nurses, school guidance counselors, and other government employees. In addition, the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Gender Affairs participated in a weekly radio program to discuss gender issues, including domestic violence. The Department reported 30 cases of domestic violence during the year. There was no separate domestic violence unit in the police force.
The law prohibits rape; however, spousal rape is not addressed in the legislation.
Prostitution is illegal and was not considered to be a problem.
The law does not specifically address sexual harassment, and it remained a problem.
The role of women in society is not restricted by law but was circumscribed by culture and tradition. There was no overt societal discrimination against women in employment, although analyses suggested that women did not occupy as many senior positions as men did. The Department of Gender Affairs conducted programs addressing poverty and health and promoting institutional mechanisms to advance the status of women and leadership positions for women. It operated three programs for rural women, providing them with market skills and training as entrepreneurs. The Department provided clients assistance with problems such as lack of housing, unemployment, childcare, technical training, and personal development. It also ran the Viola Project, a program to encourage young mothers to complete their education, which had 17 participants during the year. The Department produced three handbooks on sexual harassment, equal opportunity and employment, and equal pay for work of equal value. The Department continued its programs focusing on men as perpetrators of crimes of violence against women.
The Government was committed to children's rights and welfare and has incorporated most of the provisions of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic legislation. The law mandates compulsory education up to the age of 16; it was free and universal. More than 98 percent of children completed school.
Free medical care was provided for children, and boys and girls had equal access.
Under the law, the age of consent is 16. During the year, authorities brought charges in 22 cases involving alleged sexual activity with minors (statutory rape) and 5 cases of incest (which includes sexual activity with any member of the household).
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
No laws address trafficking in persons specifically; however, there were no reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country.
The country continued an economic citizenship program, whereby foreign investors were permitted to purchase passports through loosely monitored procedures requiring an investment of at least $250,000 (EC$675,000) in real estate and an additional registration fee of $35,000 (EC$94,500) for the head of household (amounts varied for other family members). This process reportedly facilitated the illegal immigration of persons from China and other countries to North America, where, in some instances, criminal organizations that provided the funds to such persons forced them to work under conditions similar to bonded labor until the debt was repaid. The Government denied any knowledge of illegal immigration facilitated through this program and asserted that applicants were screened adequately.
St. Kitts and Nevis is a transshipment site for cocaine from South America to the U.S. Drugs are transferred out of St.
Kitts and Nevis primarily via small sailboats, fishing boats and go-fast boats bound for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Trafficking organizations operating in St. Kitts are linked directly to South American traffickers, some of whom reportedly are residing in St. Kitts, and to other organized crime groups. Marijuana is grown locally.
Since 1996, the USG has sought the extradition of two members of the Charles Miller trafficking organization. Miller surrendered to U.S. authorities in February 2000, and was convicted on felony trafficking charges in Florida in December 2000 and sentenced to life in prison. The UK Privy Council dismissed in June 2002 the appeal of Miller's associates against the upholding of their extradition by the St. Kitts High Court and remanded the case to the High Court for expeditious action. In 2003, both the High Court and subsequently the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court upheld the extradition. The defendants are appealing once again to the UK Privy Council. In the meantime, the two individuals—Noel Heath and Glenroy Matthew—who have been named Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, remain free on bail.
St. Kitts and Nevis is party to the 1961 UN Single Convention, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis (GOSKN) is not a party to the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, or the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. It has signed, but not ratified, the Inter-American Firearms Convention. The GOSKN signed a maritime law enforcement cooperation agreement with the U.S. in 1995 and an overflight amendment to the maritime agreement in 1996. In 2000, the USG and the GOSKN brought into force extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties. The GOSKN is extremely responsive to U.S. MLAT requests.
St. Kitts and Nevis developed a five-year master plan for drug control in 1996, which was refined and its implementation initiated in November 2000. The National Council on Drug Abuse Prevention coordinates implementation. The police operate a very successful D.A.R.E. program in the federation, positively affecting the lives of thousands of students and their families. Supported by the State Departments Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), the Florida Association of Volunteer Agencies/Caribbean Action (FAVA/CA) carried out in 2002-2003 a successful demand reduction and prevention sustainability program in St. Kitts.
The police drug unit on St. Kitts has been largely ineffective. The GOSKN Defence Force augments police counternarcotics efforts, particularly in marijuana eradication operations. The government opened a National Joint Coordination Center in 2000. GOSKN officials reported seizing 36 kilograms of cocaine and approximately 17,000 kilograms of marijuana through November 2003. They arrested 56 people on drug charges and eradicated approximately 22,000 marijuana plants. In 2003, the SKN Coast Guard exercised with a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cutter and has operated its new Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat counternarcotics interceptor effectively.
The high degree of drug trafficking activity through and around St. Kitts and Nevis and the presence of known, active traffickers in St. Kitts place this small country at great risk for corruption and money laundering activity.
Internet research assisted by Claudia Betancourt and Jim Gutierrez