Human Rights Day message from the Chief Justice’s Office, 10 December 2022
“As we commemorate Human Rights Day, we have to acknowledge how fortunate Seychelles is in its respect for human rights, which are inherent to all human beings regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.
Seychelles is rated ‘free’ in Freedom in the World 2022, Freedom House’s annual study of political rights and civil liberties worldwide.
This year Seychelles also topped Africa as number one in press freedom, and 13th worldwide.
Despite Seychelles’ many wins and accomplishments over the years, minors and foreign workers remain vulnerable to abuse in Seychelles and this is demonstrated through the cases that appear before the Courts.
Article six of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, ‘Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law’, regardless of whether they are citizens or immigrants, students or tourists, workers or refugees, or any other group.
The courts have always respected this to the utmost standard, offering legal representation to all and fair hearings while also accommodating to the needs of such people.
Notable practices within our justice system are to allow children to give their testimony via video to minimise their trauma or need to be in court facing their abusers. While an unpopular or misunderstood decision in the eyes of the public, the names of accused persons are also withheld in order to protect the identity of their victims who are often related to the abusers, and tend to undergo victim blaming in their community.
For this reason, all cases involving minors are closed-door hearings. These are all done with the spirit of respecting human rights, and the decency and privacy of the minors involved.
The Court also provides translators to ease communication for foreign workers present in hearings.
The Seychelles court system is also showing strong willingness this year in particular to crack down on human trafficking, and to uphold to the highest standards that human rights, democracy, rule of law, and justice is observed in the country.
In September 2022, a landmark ruling was delivered in the Supreme Court sentencing a group of accused persons to 30 years imprisonment on four counts under the Misuse of Drugs Act 2016 and Prohibition in Trafficking in Persons Act 2014. The hope is that rulings of this nature act as a deterrent for future crimes, and to foster greater respect for human rights.
It can also be said that this case is an example of professional, transparent, and coordinated work between vital public institutions like the Police Force, Prosecution (Attorney General’s Office), and the Courts achieving their roles in protecting individuals from crimes that infringe on their human rights.
On a more personal level, there are ways that individuals can also protect and support human rights in the country.
Each individual is called upon to hold their own responsibilities in their own homes, workplaces, and immediate environment – for with freedom also comes responsibility.
Volunteer with your local associations and groups, stay connected to movements and social works that support causes. Listen to other people’s stories and stand up against discrimination.
Finally, speak up for what you care about or when you see something that is not right; always use your voice for good.”