Freedom in the World
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In 2007, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell reshuffled his cabinet and advanced plans to establish a broadcasting authority that prompted concerns about press freedom on the island. Separately, the London-based Privy Council in February struck down the life prison sentences of the 13 members of the “Grenada 17,” who had remained in prison following their conviction for the 1983 assassination of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. The inmates received reduced sentences in June, and three were released immediately.
Grenada gained independence from Britain in 1974. Maurice Bishop’s Marxist New Jewel Movement seized power in 1979, creating a People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG). In 1983, Bishop was murdered by New Jewel hard-liners Bernard Coard and Hudson Austin, who took control of the country. However, a joint U.S.-Caribbean military intervention quickly removed the PRG and set the country on a path toward new elections. In 1986, Coard and 18 others were sentenced to death; subsequently, 2 of the 19 were pardoned, and the rest—who became known as the Grenada 17—had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. In December 2006, an additional 4 of the 17 were released. The London-based Privy Council ruled in February 2007 that the same findings that had invalidated the death sentences also rendered the life sentences unconstitutional. The 13 remaining inmates received reduced sentences in June; 3 were released immediately, and the other 10, resentenced to 40 years in prison, would be eligible for release within a few years.
Prime Minister Keith Mitchell has ruled Grenada since 1995. In the 2003 elections, his New National Party (NNP) captured 8 seats in the 15-member House of Representatives, while the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), headed by Tillman Thomas, won 7 seats. Contentious relations between the government and opposition prompted Mitchell to reshuffle his cabinet in 2007. Also during the year, the NDC called for the establishment of a special committee to investigate corruption allegations regarding an oil and gas investment deal that the government signed with international investors. Separately, a legal inquiry was reopened into whether Mitchell had accepted US$500,000 from German-born Eric E. Resteiner in exchange for Resteiner’s appointment as trade counselor for Grenada in 1999.
By 2007, Grenada still had not fully recovered from Hurricane Ivan, which struck the island in September 2004 and caused nearly US$900 million in damage, more than twice the country’s annual gross domestic product. The country did achieve a 7 percent growth rate in 2007, however, and successfully hosted several matches for the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
Grenada is an electoral democracy. 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 members and the opposition leader names 3. The prime minister is typically the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives and is appointed by the governor-general, who represents the British monarch as head of state. Grenada’s main political parties are the ruling NNP, the opposition NDC, the Grenada United Labor Party (GULP), and the People’s Labor Movement (PLM).
Corruption remains a contentious political issue in Grenada, and the country compares unfavorably with several of its neighbors. Grenada was ranked 79 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index.
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 private corporation, with a minority stake owned by the government, operates the principal radio and television stations. There are also nine privately owned radio stations, one privately owned television station, and a privately owned cable company. In 2007, the government introduced a bill to create a broadcasting authority. Media advocates raised concerns that it would stifle press freedom through excessive regulation. 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 freedoms of assembly and association are respected. Grenada has a robust civil society that participates actively in domestic and international discussions, although limited resources hamper its effectiveness.
Workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively. 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 allowed the government to establish tribunals to make “binding and final” rulings when a labor dispute is considered to be 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 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. Grenada is a charter member of Caribbean Court of Justice, which was inaugurated in Trinidad and Tobago in 2005, but the country still relies on the Privy Council as its final court of appeal. Detainees and defendants are guaranteed a range of legal rights, which the government respects in practice. However, a lack of judges and facilities has led to a backlog of six months to one year for cases involving serious offenses. In addition, the highly publicized case of the Grenada 13 has been repeatedly criticized for its perceived political manipulation by the government. Amnesty International classified the 13 as political prisoners.
In 2007, violent attacks on the wife of the Cuban ambassador and Italy’s honorary consul prompted the Ministry for National Security to provide police protection for diplomats. Grenada’s prison conditions are poor, but they meet minimum international standards, and the government allows visits by human rights monitors. Flogging is still legal but employed rarely, primarily as a punishment for sex crimes and theft. In June 2006, the government opened a military-style delinquency camp for juveniles convicted of minor offenses.
Grenada has no significant problems involving discrimination against minorities. Women are represented in the government, though there are more 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 go unreported or are settled out of court.