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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2003 - Grenada

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 25 February 2004
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2003 - Grenada , 25 February 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/403f57cb4.html [accessed 21 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
February 25, 2004

Grenada is a parliamentary democracy, with a Governor General as titular Head of State. On November 27, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell's New National Party (NNP) won 8 out of 15 seats in Parliament. Observers found the elections to be generally free and fair, and they were free of violence. The judiciary is independent.

The only security force, the Royal Grenada Police Force, is responsible for maintaining law and order. It was controlled by and responsive to civilian authorities. Some members of the security force committed occasional human rights abuses.

The free-market economy was based on agriculture and tourism. Grenada and 2 smaller islands, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, had a population of approximately 103,000. The projected annual real economic growth rate was 2.5 percent.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in a few areas, including violence against women and instances of child abuse.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports of arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life committed by the Government or its agents.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reported incidents of torture. Flogging, a legal form of punishment, was rare but has been used as punishment for sex crimes and theft cases. The Police Commissioner continued to speak out strongly against police use of unlawful force. No charges were brought against the police for brutality, although individual allegations of it were cited on radio call-in talk shows.

Prison conditions generally met international standards, and the Government permitted visits by independent human rights observers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law provides the police with the right to detain persons on suspicion without a warrant, but they must bring formal charges within 48 hours. The police generally adhered to this time limit in practice. If the police do not charge a detainee within 48 hours, they must release the person.

The 830-person national police force had a hierarchical structure and was generally effective in responding to complaints; however, lack of resources was a problem. While individual cases of corrupt or abusive police have been reported, there has not been a generalized problem of police corruption. The police investigated allegations of police brutality internally. The Police Commissioner could discipline officers (up to the rank of sergeant) in valid cases of brutality with penalties that include dismissal. Only the Public Service Commission can discipline officers with the rank of inspector or above.

The law provides for a judicial determination of the legality of detention within 15 days after arrest on a criminal charge. The police must formally arraign or release a detained person within 60 days, and the authorities generally followed these procedures. There was a functioning system of bail, although persons charged with capital offenses were not eligible. Persons charged with treason may be accorded bail only upon the recommendation of the Governor General.

The Constitution does not address exile, but the Government did not use it.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary, a part of the Eastern Caribbean legal system, was independent. Final appeal may be made to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. Those arrested on criminal charges are brought before a judge to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to substantiate the charges; if there is, the judge remands the defendant for trial.

The law provides for the right to a fair public trial, and the authorities generally observed this right in practice. There is a presumption of innocence, and the law protects persons against self-incrimination and requires the police to explain a person's rights upon arrest. The accused has the right to remain silent and to seek the advice of legal counsel. A defense lawyer has the right to be present during interrogation and may advise the accused how to respond or not to respond to questions. The accused has the right to confront his accuser.

The court appoints attorneys for indigents only in cases of murder or other capital crimes. In other criminal cases that reach the appellate stage, the court appoints a lawyer to represent the accused if the defendant was not represented previously or reappoints earlier counsel if the appellant no longer could afford that lawyer's services. Due to the backlog of cases caused by a shortage of judges and facilities, those charged with serious offenses must wait from 6 months to 1 year before coming to trial in the High Court. However, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States appointed an extra judge to clear the backlog in civil cases, which was accomplished. Assizes are held three times a year for a 2-month period. With the exception of persons charged with murder and foreign-born drug suspects, the courts granted most defendants bail while awaiting trial.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Constitution prohibits such practices, and the authorities generally respected these prohibitions. The law generally requires judicially issued warrants for searching homes, except in cases of hot pursuit. The law contains other exceptions that give the police and security units legal authority to search persons and property without warrants in certain circumstances. In practice police obtained warrants in the majority of cases before conducting any search.

2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government generally respected these rights in practice.

There were three weekly newspapers, and several other newspapers published irregularly. One of the weeklies was affiliated with an opposition political party, but the three most widely circulated newspapers were independent and often critical of the Government. The newspapers routinely carried press releases by the opposition parties, including regular weekly columns expressing the opposition parties' views.

There were 10 radio stations. The main station was part of the Grenadian Broadcasting Network (GBN), a privately owned organization in which the Government held a minority share. The principal television station was also part of the GBN, and there was a privately owned television station. A cable television company operated in most areas of the country. All newspapers, radio, and television stations enjoyed independence from the State and regularly reported opposition views. The television news often carried reports on opposition activities, including coverage of political rallies held by various political parties and candidates, public forums featuring political leaders of each of the major parties, and other public service broadcasts.

The Government did not restrict access to the Internet.

The Government did not restrict academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly for any peaceful purpose and for freedom of association, and the Government generally respected these rights in practice. Supporters of political parties met frequently and held public rallies; the authorities require permits for the use of a public address system but not for public meetings themselves.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2003 International Religious Freedom Report.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country, and all citizens had the right to enter and leave the country, except in special circumstances as outlined in and limited by the 1986 Act to Restrict the Freedom of Movement of Certain Persons. This law allows the Minister for National Security to restrict travel out of the country by any person whose aims, tendencies, or objectives include the overthrow of the democratic and parliamentary system of government; it has not been invoked in the past few years. Anyone so restricted may appeal after 3 months to an independent and impartial tribunal. The Chief Justice appoints an accredited lawyer to preside over such a tribunal.

No formal government policy toward refugee or asylum requests existed. In practice, the Government provided protection against refoulement, but did not routinely grant refugee status or asylum.

3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage. General elections must be held every 5 years. On November 27, the incumbent NNP administration of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell retained power by winning 8 of the 15 seats in Parliament; however, 1 of the NNP's seats was being contested in court at year's end. The opposition National Democratic Congress Party won the other seven seats. An electoral observation team from the Organization of American States (OAS) assessed the elections as generally free and fair but noted some irregularities. The OAS team found that the large list of registered voters included many persons who actually resided abroad but who were registered for years.

There were no legal or other impediments to the participation by women in government or politics. Voters elected 4 women to Parliament; there were 4 women among the 12 appointed Senators. Women filled 8 of the 13 permanent secretary posts, the highest civil service position in each ministry.

4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Local human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, and the Government cooperated with visits from international human rights organizations.

In September 2001, the Government inaugurated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the period between the mid-1970s and the late 1980s. At year's end, the Commission's final report had not yet been presented to the Government. Former Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard and 16 other leaders of the former People's Revolutionary Government convicted for their roles in the 1983 assassination of former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and his cabinet colleagues remained in jail. In October, Amnesty International called for a further judicial review of these cases, stating that the initial trial and sentencing had been seriously flawed.

5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, place of origin, political opinion, color, creed, or sex, and the Government generally enforced these provisions.

Women

Women's rights monitors believed that violence against women remained a serious problem. The police stated that most cases of abuse were not reported, and others were settled out of court. The law stipulates a sentence of 15 years' imprisonment for a conviction of any nonconsensual form of sex. Sentences for assault against a spouse varied according to the severity of the incident. There was a shelter for battered and abused women and their children in the northern part of the island, with medical and psychological counseling personnel on its staff. The home accommodates 20 persons.

Prostitution is illegal.

Sexual harassment in the workplace was a problem.

There was no evidence of official discrimination in health care, employment, or education. Women frequently earned less than men performing the same work; such wage differences were less marked for the more highly paid jobs.

Children

The Social Welfare Division within the Ministry of Housing, Social Services, and Cooperatives provided probationary and rehabilitative services to youths, day care services and social work programs to families, assistance to families wishing to adopt or provide foster care to children, and financial assistance to the six children's homes run by private organizations.

Education is compulsory until the age of 16.

Government social service agencies reported a further increase in the number of child abuse cases, including sexual abuse. Abused children were placed either in a government-run home or in private foster homes. The law provides for harsh penalties against those convicted of child abuse and disallows the victim's alleged "consent" as a defense in cases of incest.

Persons with Disabilities

The law does not protect job seekers with disabilities from discrimination in employment, nor does it mandate provision of accessibility to public buildings or services. The National Council for the Disabled, St. George's University, and a New York-based group called International Group for Home Living formed a coalition to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities.

6. Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

All workers are free to organize independent labor unions. Although employers are not legally obliged to recognize a union formed by their employees, they generally did so in practice. Labor Ministry officials estimated that 45 percent of the work force was unionized. Union leaders played a significant role in the political process, and one labor leader serves in the Senate on behalf of the Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC).

The law prohibits discrimination by employers against union members and organizers. Mechanisms exist to resolve complaints of discrimination. After all avenues for resolving a complaint have been exhausted between union representatives and employers, both sides may agree to ask for the assistance of the Labor Commissioner. If the Labor Commissioner is unable to find a resolution to the impasse, the Minister of Labor intervenes and, if unable to reach an agreement, may appoint an arbitration tribunal if both parties agree to abide by its ruling. The law requires employers who are found guilty of anti-union discrimination to rehire dismissed employees, but in most cases the employee accepts the option of compensation. There were no cases of anti-union discrimination reported to the Ministry during the year.

All unions were technically free of government control, and none received government financial support. However, all of the major unions belonged to one umbrella labor federation, the GTUC, which was subsidized by the Government. The GTUC held annual conventions and determined some policies for member unions.

The GTUC and its unions freely affiliated with regional and international trade union groups.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers are free to organize and to participate in collective bargaining. The law requires employers to recognize a union that represents the majority of workers in a particular business.

Workers in the private and public sectors are free to strike, once legal and procedural requirements were met. There were several strikes or other types of industrial action during the year, including those by the Grenada Teacher's Union and Call Center Grenada.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Bonded Labor

The Constitution specifically prohibits forced or bonded labor, including by children, and it was not known to occur.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

Child labor is illegal; however, children sometimes worked in the agricultural sector. The statutory minimum age for employment of children is 18 years. Inspectors from the Ministry of Labor enforced this provision in the formal sector by periodic checks; however, enforcement efforts in the informal sector were lax. The Government has endorsed but not yet ratified the International Labor Organization's Convention 182 on elimination of the worst forms of child labor.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is a tripartite Wages Advisory Committee, composed of union, business, and government representatives. The Labor Ministry prescribes minimum wages, which took effect in September 2002. Minimum wages were set for various categories of workers; for example, agricultural workers were classified into male and female workers. Rates for men were $1.85 (EC$5.00) per hour, and for women $1.75 (EC$4.75) per hour; however, if a female worker performed the same task as a man, her rate of pay was the same. All agricultural workers must be paid for a minimum of 5 hours per day. The minimum wage for domestic workers was set at $148.14 (EC$400) monthly. The minimum wage was not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Most workers, including nonunionized workers, received packages of benefits from employers set by collective bargaining agreements between employers and labor unions. Many families received remittances from relatives abroad and also helped support themselves through garden-plot agriculture.

The Constitution stipulates that the maximum number of hours per week workers may work is 40. The law does not prescribe a standard workweek, except for the public sector, which is expected to work a 40-hour week Monday through Friday. The normal workweek in the commercial sector included Saturday morning work but did not exceed 40 hours.

The Government sets health and safety standards, but the authorities enforced them unevenly. Workers can remove themselves from dangerous workplace situations without jeopardy to continued employment.

f. Trafficking in Persons

There were no laws that specifically address trafficking in persons. There were no reports that persons were trafficked to, from, or within the country during the year.

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