Freedom in the World
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In 2009, Prime Minister Tillman Thomas of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) marked his first year in office by reshuffling his cabinet and elevating several junior ministers. The attorney general resigned in July after admitting he used his position to lobby for leniency on behalf of a relative who faced drug-dealing charges in Florida. Seven men, who represented the last of the “Grenada 17” convicted in the 1983 murder of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, were set free after more than two decades in prison.
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 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 2007, and 3 were immediately released. The other 10, resentenced to 40 years in prison, would become eligible for release by 2010. The last seven were freed in September 2009.
Prime Minister Keith Mitchell of the New National Party (NNP) ruled Grenada from 1995 to 2008, when his party lost parliamentary elections to the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). Tillman Thomas, the NDC leader, was sworn in as prime minister in July 2008. The NDC captured 11 seats in the 15-member House of Representatives, leaving the NNP with just 4. Despite his defeat in the general elections, former prime minister Mitchell won the NNP leadership contest in July 2009.
Amidst the global economic downturn in 2009, Prime Minister Thomas reshuffled his cabinet and elevated several junior ministers. Significant changes included separating the portfolios for foreign affairs and tourism and naming a female senator as minister for health.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties:
Grenada is an electoral democracy. The 2008 parliamentary elections were considered generally free and fair, although there were allegations of voter-list manipulation. The bicameral Parliament consists of thedirectly 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 NDC, the NNP, 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.In 2009, Grenada’s attorney general admitted to writing a letter on official stationery to U.S. prosecutors pleading for clemency for his stepson, who faced sentencing in Florida on drug-dealing charges. At Prime Minister Tillman Thomas’s request, the attorney general resigned in July. Grenada was not ranked by Transparency International in its 2009 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 2009, the government drafted and circulated for comments a Freedom of Information Act to ensure greater government transparency. 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. Labor unions represent an estimated 52 percent of the workforce, according to the Labor Ministry. All unions belong to the government-subsidized Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC). A 1993 law gave the government the right to establish tribunals empowered to make “binding and final” rulings when a labor dispute is considered to be of vital interest to the state; the GTUC has expressed concerns that the law is an infringement on the right to strike. Employers are not legally bound to recognize a union if less than half of the workers are unionized.
The independence and authority of Grenada’s judiciary is generally respected by the Royal Grenada Police Force. Grenada is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States court system and a charter member of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice, but the country still relies on the Privy Council in London 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 September 2009, the government released the final seven members of the Grenada 17, who had spent more than two decades in prison following convictions for their role in the 1983 murder of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. This highly publicized case had been repeatedly criticized due to perceived political manipulation by the government, and Amnesty International had classified the group as political prisoners.
Grenada’s prison conditions, though poor, 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.
Grenada has few significant minorities, although its gay population remains a target of discrimination. Women are represented in the government, including both houses of parliament and the cabinet. 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. In 2009, NGOs such as the Grenada National Organization for Women and the Coalition on the Rights of the Child remained outspoken on incidents of rape and abuse.