The Grenada Revolution Online

Complaint Alleging Violations of Human Rights in Grenada [8 Decenber 1980]

Articles of Convention Violated by Government of Grenada

  1. Article 13 re Freedom of thought and Expression from Petition Pages 3-6

  2. Article 21 re deprivation of Property from Petition Pages 6-7

  3. Article 23 re Right of Participation in Government from Petition Pages 2-3

COMPLAINT ALLEGING VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN
RIGHTS IN GRENADA

CONTRARY TO
THE AMERICAN CONVENTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

To the Inter American Commission on Human Rights
c/o The Organization of American States
19th and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
U.S.A.

We wish to advise the Inter-American commission on Human Rights for the purposes established in its Statute and Regulations, of the violation of human rights of the following persons, groups of persons and non-governmental entities -

i) Citizens of TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

ii) Citizens of GRENADA

1. Your Petitioners are all persons or groups of persons or nongovernmental entities legally recognized in Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and other countries, all of which are member States which have signed and ratified the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter referred to as "the convention"). The names, addresses and descriptions of your Petitioners are set out fully in the Schedule to this Petition.

2. Your Petitioners charge that the Government which describes itself as the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada, has been guilty of divers gross violations of the Convention as hereinafter set out. As an American State Grenada signed the Convention on July 14, 1978 and deposited its instrument of ratification on July 18, 1978.

VIOLATIONS

A. VIOLATIONS OF ARTICLE 23

3. The first violation complained of is in respect of the Right to Participate in Government which is guaranteed by Article 23 of the Convention.

(1) The People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada came to power not through the established and constitutional democratic process of elections but by the use of armed force resulting in a coup on March 13, 1979. Consequently, the continuance of the People's Revolutionary Government for a period which now exceeds eighteen (18) months without seeking legitimacy by holding an election is a clear violation of the human rights of the 112,000 citizens of Grenada.

(2). Specifically Article 23 of the Convention has been violated by the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada in the following respects:

i) For a period now exceeding eighteen (18) months the citizens of Grenada have been deprived of the right and opportunity to vote in a genuine election and no undertaking has been given and no plans or preparations are manifest of any intention to hold a genuine election in the immediate or near future.

ii) In addition the citizens of Grenada have been deprived of all opportunity or right to take part in the conduct of public affairs directly or through freely elected representatives.

B. VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 13

4. (1) The second violation complained of is in respect of the right to Freedom of Thought and Expression which is guaranteed by Article 13 of the Convention.

(2) The specific allegations of violation of Article 13 are as follows:

i) The closing of the Torchlight newspaper on October 13, 1979.

ii) The suspension of the Catholic Focus newspaper.

THE TORCHLIGHT

5. (a) On October 13, 1979, the independent newspaper "Torchlight" was closed by the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada acting through its agent, the Secretary for National Security and Commander of the Revolutionary armed forces, Lt. Col. Hudson Austin. No criminal charges or other legal process were ever served on the newspaper, its owners or its management or publishers nor was any inquiry ever held in which the newspaper, its owners or its management or publishers were given the opportunity of answering charges or allegations against it.

(b) Following a complaint by the newspaper to the Caribbean Press Council, that Council investigated the matter and found and reported that the Torchlight was not guilty of destabilisation as alleged by the People's Revolutionary Government. Referring to what had been published in the newspaper, the Council said "While it is true that some of the criticism could be said to be unbalanced and lacking in investigative competence the same could be said of commentary in organs owned by the State or the New Jewel Movement (the Government party) such as Radio Free Grenada, the New Jewel and the Free West Indian". (See copy of Report of Caribbean Press Council annexed hereto as Exhibit A.) - NOTE: Not available.

(c) Two weeks after the closure of Torchlight, the People's Revolutionary Government introduced "People's Law 81". by People's Law No. 10 it is declared that "For the time being all people's laws shall become effecting upon oral declaration and/or publication on Radio Free Grenada by the Prime Minister or in the official Gazette under the hand of the Prime Minister." The aforesaid People's Law 81 banned shareholding by aliens and 4% of the shareholding in any company which is the proprietor, printer or publisher of a newspaper. Under the said law, all alien shareholdings and Grenadian shareholdings above 4% were automatically vested in the Government. (See copy of Peoples's Law 81 annexed hereto as Exhibit B.) NOTE, these exhibits are not available, but check People's Laws 1979.

(d) the meeting of the shareholders of Grenada Publishers Limited, publishers of Torchlight, on November 12, 1979 recommended that publication of Torchlight should not be resumed unless People's Law 81 was repealed.

(e) on February 5, 1980, the President of the Caribbean Publishing and Broadcasting Association to whom the shareholders and publishers of the Torchlight had referred, and after numerous unsuccessful efforts to communicate with the Grenada Government authorities, and in particular with the office of the Prime Minister, wrote the Prime Minister. (See copy of a letter annexed hereto as Exhibit C). NOTE - exhibit not available.

(f) Early in March 1980, the directors of the Grenada Publishing Ltd wrote to Prime Minister Bishop that they had now concluded that it would not be necessary to repeal People's Law 81 before the newspaper was published again. "With that decision", they said, "and with all alien shares and all Grenadian shares above 4% now held by the Revolutionary Government (they) saw no barrier to resumption of publication". They added "we see this resumption to be desirable for various reasons, not the least of which are repeated appeals from our advertising customers and the opportunity to bear testimony to the public, local and otherwise, that the government is sincere in its declaration that it wishes to honour freedom of the press". They said that they had noted the view attributed to Prime Minister Bishop recently in the press that the matter of publication of the paper was in the hands of the Board of Directors and accordingly it was their intention to resume publication not later than the first Sunday in April, 1980.

(g) In reply to this letter, Mr. Bishop's Permanent Secretary stated the reasons given for closing the paper and said that no publication of the Torchlight would be permitted before the publication by the People's Revolutionary Government of a media policy statement: and until Grenada Publishers Ltd. was willing to discuss with the People's Revolutionary Government issues which were the basis of the newspaper's closure.

(h) Your Petitioners are informed that the statement that the People's Revolutionary Government had not been invited to a shareholders meeting since November 12, 1979 does not carry any weight since there has been no shareholders meeting since then.

(i) The Torchlight newspaper has not been published since it was closed on October 13, 1979.

(j) The arbitrary and dictatorial closure of Grenada's independent newspaper contravened, in the submission of our Petitioners, the rights of individuals or groups under Article 13 of the Convention to impart information and ideas in print. All the citizens of Grenada had their human rights violated by being prevented from receiving information and ideas of any kind from their traditionally independent newspaper.

THE CATHOLIC FOCUS

6. This same human right in respect of Article 13 was again violated when on February 11, 1980 the People's Revolutionary Government suspended, after the publication of its first issue, the "Catholic Focus", a weekly pamphlet published by the Roman Catholic Church for the benefit of its members in the diocese of St. George, the capital city of Grenada.

7. Your Petitioners contend that the so-called People's Law 81 which prevents non-Grenadians from owning shares in a newspaper or a Grenadian from owning more than 4% of the total shareholding in a newspaper is contrary to Article 13 of the Convention. Specifically, such a law restricts freedom of expression by limiting potential newspaper publishers, is an abuse of Government power and is a deliberate attempt to impede the communication and circulation of ideas and information.

C. VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 21

8. The third violation relates to Article 21.

(a) the Trinidad Express Newspaper Ltd., a company registered in the State of Trinidad and Tobago hereinafter referred to as the express had for some time assisted the Torchlight's development. The Express owned four thousand six hundred and eight (4,608) of the shares in the Grenada Publishers Ltd. which number has been compulsorily acquired by the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada and which, Mr. Bishop announced could be paid for by the Government. (See copy of Share Certificate attached hereto as Exhibit E). NOTE: not available. Notwithstanding the provisions of sec. 5E of People's Law No. 81 the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada has refused or neglected to pay the announced compensation of EC$20,459 for these shares or any other compensation therefor and this is, your Petitioners submit, a direct violation of the second paragraph of Article 21 and of the recognised minimum standard rule of customary international law which requires prompt, effective and full compensation be given for the expropriated property of foreign nationals.

On September 21, 1979, the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada seized and commandeered the factory of the Coca Cola Company in Grenada owned and operated by W.E. Julien and Co. Ltd., a Grenadian company, registered in the State of Grenada.

(c) Neither in respect of the Torchlight, nor of the Coca Cola Company has any compensation been paid to the owners of shareholders by the Government of Grenada and it is submitted, therefore, that the seizure of and failure to compensate for the property involved mounts to illegal confiscation and is accordingly additionally an international tort.

It is to be noted that the Caribbean Publishing and Broadcasting Association, the Inter-American Press Association and the Caribbean Press Council have all condemned the actions of the Government of Grenada in relation to Torchlight but without effect as to getting the Government of Grenada to remedy the situations complained of. Further, all communications, including letters written to Prime Minister Bishop have been unanswered or unheeded. (see e.g., Exhibits D1 and D2) NOTE: Exhibits not available.

10. Further, and in relation to the instances and allegations set out herein concerning violations of the rights of the citizens of Grenada and of Trinidad and Tobago, your Petitioners have unsuccessfully made and exhausted all reasonable efforts to obtain redress either by judicial process or by administrative action, but have failed to obtain such redress for the following reasons:

(i) The Lawful Constitution of Grenada which provides for redress against arbitrary deprivation of property has been illegally suspended by the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada and no other provision for redress against arbitrary deprivation of property substituted for the suspended constitutional provision. (See Exhibits H and J) NOTE: Exhibits not available.

(ii) No law now exists in the State of Grenada providing for process to issue against the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada where, in any circumstances, expropriation or confiscation of property has been done by that Government.

(iii) the suspended constitution of Grenada provided for the protection of the enjoyment by citizens of Grenada of the fundamental rights of the right to freedom of expression and the right to vote and participate in freely held elections; the said Constitution provided also for remedies and redress against violations of these rights. But no law now exists whereby these violations could be remedied.

(iv) Because of the repressive security measures of the regime of the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada attorneys both in and out of Grenada are reluctant to act on behalf of your Petitioners for instituting any legal process in the existing courts of Grenada, for fear of their personal safety. (see Exhibits F and G). NOTE: Exhibits not available.

(v) Alternatively, your Petitioners have been advised that the Courts now existing in Grenada have no jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the wrongs complained of in this petition and to give redress therefor.

(vi) All efforts to obtain redress by administrative action have been frustrated by the administrative recalcitrance of the appropriate administrative agencies of the People's Revolutionary Government and State of Grenada.

(vii) The prevailing situation of repression and oppressive security measures adopted by the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada, including detention without trial, do not allow opportunities for redress by due process of law of the wrongs herein complained of.

11. In view of the foregoing, Your Petitioners can have no hope of being afforded any remedies under the domestic law of Grenada, and no remedies can be pursued in Grenada in accordance with the generally recognised principle of international law and with any reasonable expectation of success. It is also a fact that none of the owners of the Torchlight, the Express, the Catholic Focus or of the Coca Cola Company has been notified of "any official judgment" of any Court or tribunal in any accepted and understood legal or juridical meaning of the words authorising the acts against them about which complaint is herein made.

12. The subject of this Petition is not pending in any other international proceeding for settlement.

13. Your Petitioners believe that the matters set out in this Petition are serious and urgent and respectfully request that the Commission receive evidence by oral testimony:

(i) at its Headquarters in Washington, D.C.; and/or

(ii) during an on-the-spot visit to Grenada.

Your Petitioners further urge that if a "friendly settlement", as provided in Article 49 of the Convention is not speedily obtained the Commission draw up its report under Article 50 of the Convention with as little delay as possible with a view to submission of your Petitioners' complaints to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for early consideration and judgment and that full publication be made throughout the hemisphere of the findings of the Commission and the Court.

LIST OF PETITIONERS

1. Oliver Clarke

2. Ken Gordon

3. Mark Conyers

4. Neville S. Grosvenor

5. Stephen Blathwaite (sic, most likely 'Brathwaite')


NOTE: The petition above was transmitted to Maurice Bishop as Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and Home Affairs, Information and Culture, National Security and Carriacou Affairs in a cover letter from David J. Padilla, Assistant Executive Secretary of the IACHR/OAS on 8 December 1980.


As an additional note - From Deosaran's "Grenada Media File":

Two weeks after Bishop's murder, I [Deosaran] asked the Managing Director of the Express, Ken Gordon, about his incident. He explained that Bishop, after promising to compensate for the shares ($35,000) 'eventually refused."

He [Ken Gordon] added:

'Even when the Torchlight management sought to remove the things Bishop thought offensive, we found that he also wanted to appoint his own editor, one Mr. Don Rojas, and it was at that stage that the Torchlight management said we could have none of that.' (November 1, 1983).

RESPONSE BY THE PRG

RESPONSE BY PEOPLE'S REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT OF
GRENADA TO COMPLAINT BY OLIVER CLARKE AND OTHERS
ALLEGING VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN GRENADA
(Case 7578)

The People's Revolutionary Government, in response to the complaint states:

1. None of the petitioners are citizens of Grenada or reside therein. Their only connection with Grenada is that one of them is a Senior Official of a non-Grenadian company whose financial interests in Grenada have been adversely affected by People's Law Number 81 of 1979.

2. the petitioners have not made or exhausted all reasonable efforts to obtain redress by the judicial powers in Grenada and as is alleged in paragraph ten (10) of their complaint. They have made no attempt to test the legality of any of the acts or omissions complained of in the courts of Grenada.

Although the fundamental rights clauses in the Constitution of Grenada have been suspended by the People's Revolutionary Government, the Grenada Courts still apply English Common Law principles and local statute law, and the Government of Grenada suable in the Courts under the local Crown Proceedings Ordinance.

Attorneys in Grenada have consistently appeared in the local Courts on behalf of persons charged with terrorism and murder directed against the leaders and security forces of the People's Revolutionary Government without any repressive acts having been taken against them for such appearances. In addition lawyers from other West Indian countries such as Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica have appeared, and are free to appear, in the Courts of Grenada. The complainants' allegation of inability to obtain legal counsel in Grenadian courts is therefore without any foundation whatsoever.

As regards alleged violation of Article 23

3. (a) The Grenada Revolution of March 13, 1979 which overthrew the Gairy Government was necessitated by the repressive parliamentary dictatorship instituted by the Gairy regime, which prior to the Revolution, had embarked on a systematic process of destruction of the democratic and progressive forces in Grenada with the assistance of the Pinochet Government in Chile and other fascist or anti-social-ist regimes. The Revolution was consistent with the most fundamental and historic right of the peoples of the Americas - to revolt against any Government which denies the masses freedom to organise and express their collective political will.

(b) National elections have not been held in Grenada since the Revolution because:

(i) the People's Revolutionary Government intends to replace the old constitutional system with a new one designed to enable the people to participate more fully and continuously in the Governmental process; elections under the old system would therefore be inappropriate in the context.

(ii) Since the triumph of the Revolution, it has come under attack from external and internal sources which have embarked on economic sabotage, internal violence and other methods of subversion and destabilisation in an attempt to overthrow the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada. These acts have resulted in a situation which threatens the independence and security of the State of Grenada, thus forcing the People's Revolutionary Government to adopt measures necessary for the maintenance of national security.

As regards alleged violation of Article 13

4. (1) The "Torchlight" newspaper was closed by the People's Revolutionary Government in the interests of national security because that paper had embarked on a course of actively creating internal fear, suspicion and unrest by the dissemination of fabricated stories.

Among the acts committed by the paper were:-

(a) Maliciously reprinting and publishing a completely false article by a West German paper alleging that the People's Revolutionary Government had deforested a large area in the centre of the island in order to build a missile base aimed at other Caribbean islands and that there was a Russian naval base in Carriacou. All of these allegations were completely fabricated, but were reprinted by the Torchlight in spite of the fact that it indicated in the same issue that the paper could not substantiate the facts.

(b) Publishing information about security matters in Grenada such as giving the whereabouts of an army camp, the location of which was being kept as secret as possible in the interests of national security, and publishing photographs of the Prime Minister's personal security man in spite of requests by Government not to do so.

(c) Actively encouraging disaffection in the country by maliciously publishing false allegations concerning the Rastafarian community in Grenada that:-

(i) their children were being thrown out of schools by the People's Revolutionary Government;

(ii) the People's Revolutionary Government had promised and then denied the community land to grow marijuana; and

(iii) that the army was pointing its guns at the Rastafarians in the hills in order to wipe them out.

These allegations were completely false and published by the Torchlight with the intention of stirring up the Rastafarian community in Grenada against the Government with a view to creating disruption in the country.

Two days after this article appeared, members of the Army were stoned by Rastafarians in Gouyave, in the parish of St. John's. On the next Saturday at a Rastafarian rally attended by about 200 persons four of the speakers called for arms and for the use of violence to fight against the Government, referring to the same article to justify their call.

(2) As a result, the Government was forced to take steps to terminate publication of the Torchlight on 11th October, 1979. People's Law No. 81 of 1979 of 26th October, 1979, imposed a statutory ban on non-Grenadian ownership of shares in a Grenadian newspaper company, and a limit on individual ownership to 4% of the paid capital of a newspaper company.

(b) The intent of this Law was to prevent foreign penetration and control and to democratise local ownership of media companies in Grenada.

(c) In a speech to the 4th Conference of the American Association of Jurists in Jamaica on 11th November, 1979, the Prime Minister of Grenada stated that the closure of the torchlight was temporary; that the People's Revolutionary Government was very anxious to see the newspaper re-opened and that on his return to Grenada the next day (the 12th November, 1979) he intended to meet with the shareholders at an extraordinary General Meeting and there put forward the case of the Government, which he outlined as follows:

We are going to be asking that a new editor be appointed to the newspaper. So far as we are concerned, there needs to be only one guideline for that editor. If you are a serious professional, responsible journalist, then all you must do is act in that way. Publish a genuinely independent national responsible and free press. When criticisms come in, whether for the Government or against the Government, publish them and if Government wishes to reply, publish that too. Our position is as simple as that. Just deal with the reality in the country and we will be quite happy to let the paper continue. So that, sisters and brothers is our position on this question of the Torchlight newspaper.

[NOTE: For the above excerpt and others from the speech about, check excerpt, Free Press and the Role of the Media]

(d) However that extraordinary General Meeting rejected a motion that the Prime Minister be invited to address the meeting and resolved that the Torchlight should not attempt to resume publication until People's Law No. 81 of 1979 was repealed. The owners of the Torchlight have since then refused to admit any bias or danger in their reportage as to recognise the perilous situation in which the country has been placed as a result of the aggressive acts and intentions of the United States Government.

(3) In October 1979, the People's Revolutionary Government announced that it intended to create and enforce a media policy which would establish democratic principles governing the ownership of the media and dissemination of news. It indicated that no new newspaper would be permitted until that policy was published. This position has since been given statutory force by People's Law no. 18 of 1981, which is effective for one year within which period it is expected the Government's Media Policy will be published. A copy of that law is hereto annexed as Exhibit A. NOTE: exhibit not available.

5. (1) There has existed in Grenada since the Revolution, and there still exists, a state of emergency and public danger that threatens the independence and security of the State. This danger has resulted from overt and covert acts and threats by the Government of the United States of America and other organisations in that country, which include economic aggression, the preparation of mercenaries for hostile operations, aggressive military manoeuvres off the shorts of Grenada, and subversion and sabotage in Grenada.

(2) There existed during the period to which the complaint relates groups of armed terrorists who engaged in actual and attempted acts of violence against the leaders, members and institutions of the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada, including:-

(a) the detonation of the 19th June, 1980 of an explosive device under the main stand at a pro-revolution rally at Queen's Park, intended to assassinate the entire leadership of the People's Revolutionary Government, and which killed three young persons and injured scores of other members of the public attending the rally.

(b) The detonation of that device was intended to facilitate an armed seizure of power by a small group of persons connected with the assassins who had gathered for this purpose at this time, but who were captured and dispersed as a result of the failure of the explosion to achieve its purpose.

(c) Attacks on both military personnel and civilians have been carried out by terrorist bands in 1979 and 1980, resulting in the deaths of innocent members of the public and of the security forces.

(d) Clandestine propaganda has been distributed by an organisation calling itself "the GNP for National Liberation" to which certain important shareholders in the Torchlight publishing company are connected, containing material intended to stir up political and religious fanaticism, hatred and violence against the members of the People's Revolutionary Government and Cuban medical and construction personnel on the island.

As regards alleged violation of Article 21

6. (a) The shares in Grenada Publishers Limited held in the name of the Trinidad Express Newspaper Limited (a company registered and resident in Trinidad and Tobago) were issued contrary to the provisions of Part III of the Exchange Control Ordinance of Grenada. No permission was obtained from the competent authority prior to the issue of these shares, or at any time thereafter.

(b) As a result the transfer of those shares was null, void and of no effect in Grenadian Law, under which the Trinidad Express Newspaper Limited cannot be regarded as the owners thereof.

(c) In the circumstances, no compensation is payable to the Trinidad Express Newspaper Limited under People's Law No. 81 of 1979 or any other Grenadian Law in respect of the shares in Grenada Publishers Limited registered in its name.

JULY 31, 1981

St. George's
GRENADA

NOTE: The above case was never resolved by the IACHR by the time the People's Revolutionary Government folded in October 1983.

For additional and detailed information, please check out these links:

Newspapers - Overview
Gairy and Media
The Spark, 2 February 1975
The Spark, [March 1975]
Grenadian Voice and the PRG/NJM
Torchlight and the PRG/NJM
Radio
Television

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