Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In November, the government launched a campaign raising popular awareness of constitutional reform for the coming year. In July Prime Minister Keith Mitchell called for national consultation on the increase in crime, often violent and drug related. Following a crackdown on offshore banking, the country was cleared of money laundering practices by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In October the governement suspended an opposition leader from parliament for a month over an accusation of financial impropriety. A controversial housing of foreign prisoners in Grenada came to a close with the transfer of 11 prisoners back to St. Lucia. After two years on the run in Canada, a prominent journalist, accused of sedition on the basis of statements made during a radio show in 1998, surrendered to authorities. The most serious challenge to Grenada is the apparently unmanageable rise in crime.
Grenada, a member of the Commonwealth, is a parliamentary democracy. The British monarchy is represented by a governor-general. Grenada, which gained independence in 1974, includes the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. The bicameral parliament consists of the 15-seat House of Representatives and the 13-seat Senate, to which the prime minister appoints 10 senators and the opposition leader, 3.
Maurice Bishop's Marxist New Jewel Movement seized power in 1979. In 1983 Bishop was murdered by New Jewel hardliners Bernard Coard and Hudson Austin, who took control of the country in the name of the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG). A joint U.S.-Caribbean military intervention removed the PRG. In 1986 Coard and 18 others were sentenced to death; 2 were pardoned and 17 had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formally inaugurated in September 2000. Its mandate was to investigate the period from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s. Since October 2000 the commission has held several weekly sessions, which have not drawn much media or public attention. The commission has the objective of recommending "general amnesty to certain persons who in the opinion of the commission have given truthful information during the hearing of evidence." The commission is expected to review the convictions of the leaders of the former PRG for their roles in the 1983 assassination of former Prime Minister Bishop and his cabinet colleagues.
Citizens are able to change their government through democratic elections. The 1999 elections were considered free and fair; general elections must be held every five years. Constitutional guarantees regarding the right to organize political, labor, or civic groups are respected. There are three major political parties, and few obstacles face those establishing new ones. There has been a decline in turnout, as young people, in particular, appear to have lost confidence in a system riddled with divisive politics and allegations of corruption. After the crushing defeat suffered by Grenada's opposition parties, their role as alternatives in future elections was seriously in doubt.
The independent and prestigious judiciary has authority generally respected by the 782-member Royal Grenada Police Force. There are no military or political courts. In 1991 Grenada rejoined the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States court system, with the right of appeal to the Privy Council in London. Detainees and defendants are guaranteed a range of legal rights that the government respects in practice. There is a substantial backlog of six months to one year for cases involving serious offenses, the result of a lack of judges and facilities. Like many Caribbean island-nations, Grenada has suffered from a rise in violent, drug-related crime, particularly among increasingly disaffected youth. Prison conditions are poor, though they meet minimum international standards and the government allows human rights monitors to visit. Flogging is still legal, but it is rarely used, and then primarily as a punishment for sex crimes and theft cases.
The right to free expression is generally respected. The media, including three weekly newspapers and several other publications, are independent and freely criticize the government. A privately owned corporation, with a minority government share, owns the principal radio and television stations. There are, in addition, five privately owned radio stations, one privately owned television station, and a privately owned cable company. All of the media are independent of the government and regularly report on all political views. There is free access to the Internet. There are no official restrictions on academic freedom.
Numerous independent labor unions include an estimated 20 to 25 percent of the workforce. All unions belong to the Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC), which is represented in the Senate. A 1993 law gives the government the right to establish tribunals empowered to make "binding and final" rulings when a labor dispute is considered of vital interest to the state. The GTUC claimed the law was an infringement on the right to strike. Workers have the right to organize and to bargain collectively.
Women are represented in the government, though in greater numbers in the ministries than in parliament. No official discrimination takes place, but women generally earn less than men for equal work. Domestic violence against women is common. Police say that most instances of abuse are not reported and others are settled out of court. Child abuse remains a significant issue. Citizens of Grenada generally enjoy the free exercise of religious beliefs. There are no significant minority-related issues.