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Prime Minister Keith Mitchell continued to battle allegations of corruption in 2005. As the island began to recuperate from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the government completed an inquiry into allegations of police looting and negligence in the aftermath of the storm.
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.
Grenada has been ruled by Prime Minister Keith Mitchell since he first came to power in the 1995 elections, when his New National Party (NNP) won a bare majority of 8 seats in the 15-seat House of Representatives. In January 1999, Mitchell called elections 18 months early after the resignation of Foreign Minister Raphael Fletcher left the ruling NNP with a minority government of seven seats in the House of Representatives; the election results left his party with a clean sweep of all 15 seats.
In the run-up to the November 7, 2003, elections, the Mitchell government was accused of garnering voter support by giving public workers retroactive payments. The opposition also reported discrepancies in voter lists. Nevertheless, the elections were deemed to be generally free and fair. The NNP captured 8 seats, while the National Democratic Party (NDP), headed by Tillman Thomas, won 7 seats.
Relations between the Mitchell government and the parliamentary opposition remained contentious, with frequent allegations of wrongdoing. An inquiry continued into accusations that Mitchell accepted $190,000 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 February 2005, Grenadian authorities began investigations into the possibility of fraud in the Agricultural Emergency Rehabilitation Program when farmers began to complain that they had not received payments.
In March 2004, the Grenada high court ruled unconstitutional the sentences given to 14 members of the Grenada 17. The government appealed the decision to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and won a reversal of the high-court decision. The 17 now remain in jail pending an appeal to the Privy Council in London. 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. However, subsequent delays and controversies have hampered the inquiry and delayed the release of the final report. Upon the death of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 2004, Grenada's parliament passed a resolution praising the former president's role in restoring democracy to the island.
In September 2004, Grenada was all but ruined by Hurricane Ivan. The damage neared $900 million, more than twice the country's annual GDP. Agriculture and tourism were upended, and unemployment jumped to 20 percent. However, the devastation failed to inspire a detente between the government of Prime Minister Mitchell and the opposition, which has sued to contest the government's one-seat majority in the parliament.
Citizens of Grenada can change their government democratically. The 2003 parliamentary elections were considered generally free and fair, despite some allegations of voter-list manipulation. The bicameral parliament consists of the directly elected 15-seat House of Representatives, whose members serve five-year terms, and the 13-seat Senate, to which the prime minister appoints 10 senators and the opposition leader 3. The prime minister is typically the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives and appointed by the governor general, who represents the British monarchy.
Grenada's main political parties are the ruling New National Party (NNP), the minority party of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the Grenada United Labor Party (GULP), and the People Labor Movement (PLM).
Grenada was not ranked by Transparency International in its 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index. After the suspension of 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; the controversy remains unresolved.
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 various political views. Access to the internet is unrestricted.
Citizens of Grenada generally enjoy the free exercise of religious beliefs, and there are no official restrictions on academic freedom.
Constitutional guarantees regarding freedom of assembly and association are respected. Grenada has a robust civil society that participates actively in domestic and international discussions, although limited resources hamper the effectiveness of this sector.
Workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively. Numerous independent labor unions represent an estimated 20 to 25 percent of the workforce. All unions belong to the Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC). 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 authority of Grenada's independent and prestigious judiciary is 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, which the government respects in practice. However, a lack of judges and facilities has created a backlog of six months to one year for cases involving serious offenses.
In June 2005, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell released a report on the actions of the Royal Grenada Police Force in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan. Police officers were accused of looting and criticized for their inability to restore order; several top police officials were asked to resign.
Amnesty International has advocated that the government carry out an independent judicial review of the convictions of the Grenada 17. In 2003, Amnesty International classified the Grenada 17 as political prisoners, finding that their original trial was unfair and that subsequent appeals were 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 visits by human rights monitors. Hurricane Ivan caused severe damage in 2004 to the country's only prison, and a new facility is expected to 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 most instances of abuse are not reported, while others are settled out of court. Spousal rape has been criminalized.