Freedom in the World

Grenada

Grenada

Freedom in the World 2005

2005 Scores

Status

Free

Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1.5

Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

2

Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1
Overview: 


In 2004, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell continued to be the focus of a corruption scandal alleging that that he accepted money from a German citizen in return for awarding the latter a government post. Meanwhile, the sentences of 14 members of the so-called Grenada 17 were ruled unconstitutional by the country's High Court.

Grenada, a Commonwealth member that gained independence from Britain in 1974, includes the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Maurice Bishop's Marxist New Jewel Movement seized power in 1979. In 1983, Bishop was murdered by New Jewel hard-liners 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; subsequently, 2 were pardoned, and 17 - who became known as the "Grenada 17" - had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

In the run-up to the November 7, 2003 elections, the Mitchell government was accused of garnering voter support by paying public workers retroactive payments. The opposition also reported discrepancies in voter lists. The elections, which were nevertheless deemed to be generally free and fair, were called seven months early. Mitchell's New National Party (NNP) won 8 seats, down from the 15-seat sweep of the 1999 elections, while the National Democratic Party (NDP), headed by Tillman Thomas, won 7 seats. The Grenada United Labor Party (GULP), the Good Old Democracy Party (GODP), and the Grenada Renaissance Party (GRP) were unsuccessful in securing any seats. Mitchell retained his position as prime minister. After opposition parties suffered a crushing defeat in the 1999 elections, their role as alternatives in future elections was seen as seriously in doubt.

A formal investigation began in 2004 into allegations that Mitchell received $500,000 from German-born Eric E. Resteiner in exchange for Resteiner's appointment as trade counselor for Grenada. Mitchell maintained that the money had been approved by the cabinet and was for legitimate expenses regarding trade promotion.

In March, the Grenada High Court ruled unconstitutional the sentences given to 14 members of the Grenada 17. The High Court was set to re-sentence and possibly free the 14 until the government appealed the decision to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court; a decision was pending as of November 30. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission - which was formally inaugurated in September 2001 and has a mandate to investigate violence from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s - is expected to review the convictions of the Grenada 17. As of November 2004, the commission had not yet presented its final report to the government; the report was due to be delivered in June.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 


Citizens are able to change their government through democratic elections. The 2003 parliamentary elections were considered generally free and fair, with some allegations of voter list manipulation and government pandering. 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. A governor-general represents the British monarchy.

Grenada was not ranked by Transparency International in its 2004 Corruption Perceptions Index. After suspending the Economic Citizenship Program that allowed the purchase of Grenadian nationality following September 11, 2001, allegations surfaced in August 2004 that some passports had been issued without following appropriate procedures and that the records of these documents were missing from the Immigration Department. By the end of November, no further information on these charges was available.

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. In addition, there are nine privately owned radio stations, one privately owned television station, and a privately owned cable company. All media outlets are independent of the government and regularly report on all political views. There is free access to the Internet.

Citizens of Grenada generally enjoy the free exercise of religious beliefs. There are no official restrictions on academic freedom.

Constitutional guarantees regarding the rights of freedom of assembly and association are respected. Workers have the right to organize and to bargain collectively. 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 that the law was an infringement on the right to strike.

The independent and prestigious judiciary has authority generally respected by the 782-member Royal Grenada Police Force. There are no military 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. However, 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.

Amnesty International has advocated that the government carry out an independent judicial review of the convictions of the Grenada 17, arguing that there were numerous irregularities and violations of international standards in the trial of the accused. In 2003, Amnesty International classified the Grenada 17 as political prisoners based upon its findings that their original trial was unfair, and subsequent appeals manipulated for political reasons.

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, although they meet minimum international standards and the government allows human rights monitors to visit. With Hurricane Ivan causing severe damage in 2004 to the country's only prison, it is expected that the new facility will address some of the shortcomings of the old one. Flogging is still legal but rarely used, and then primarily as a punishment for sex crimes and theft cases.

There are no significant minority issues in Grenada.

Women are represented in the government, though in greater numbers in the ministries than in parliament. Women generally earn less than men for equal work. Domestic violence against women is common, and police say that most instances of abuse are not reported, while others are settled out of court.