Justice and Freedom for the Grenada 17 sign now

JUSTICE AND FREEDOM FOR THE GRENADA 17

We, the undersigned, come together before you, seeking truth, justice and freedom for the Grenada 17, who have been unjustly incarcerated at Richmond Hill Prison, Grenada, for almost 22 years.

As the surviving former political and military leaders of the Grenadian revolution, the Grenada 17 were arrested in October 1983 when the United States, in clear violation of international law, invaded the beautiful island of Grenada. Within a week, 79 world governments expressed their disapproval of this action, and the United Nations General Assembly voted 108 to 9 to condemn the American intervention.

The statements given by the Grenada 17 to police investigators in November 1983, and later recorded in the form of affidavits, bear witness to the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment these political prisoners were subjected to upon their arrest. They also reveal that the confessions of guilt, which were used as evidence in the trial of the 17, were extracted from them under torture. Apart from these coerced confessions, the convictions of the Grenada 17 were based solely on the perjured evidence of a single witness, who was later described by an eminent Caribbean Appeals Court Judge as 'having a grudge against the accused, and therefore a motive to lie'.

The numerous deceits and irregularities of the trial of the Grenada 17, and of the subsequent legal motions through which their appeals for justice were turned down, are described in the 2003 Amnesty International report entitled 'The Grenada 17: Last of the Cold War Prisoners?' (http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR320012003?open&of=ENG-GRD). The Amnesty document considers the process against the 17 to have been 'fatally flawed' and 'manifestly unjust', and calls for an independent judicial review of their convictions. So far the Grenadian authorities have not acted upon Amnestys recommendations. The Grenada 17 have always maintained their innocence and have stated that if they had been allowed a free and fair trial they would have cleared their names and be free today.

The mental, physical and emotional abuse and stress that the 17 have endured during the 22 years of their imprisonment have taken a heavy toll. Phyllis Coard, former Deputy Minister for Women's Affairs, was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 after 16 years of incarceration, which included nearly 7 years in isolation. She was granted only temporary release for treatment. In 2004, John Ventour, former General Secretary of the Grenada Trade Union Council, was also diagnosed with cancer. He remains incarcerated. Others of the Grenada 17 suffer from severe prostatitis, arthritis, diabetes, and other medical conditions. Former Deputy PM Bernard Coard is losing his sight.

During its time in power, the People's Revolutionary Government, of which many of the 17 were members, was responsible for substantial social and economic reforms. These gifted and capable people, now languishing in prison, brought free medical care and free education to Grenada. They set up a health center in every parish and effected the doubling of the number of doctors on the island. They helped raise literacy by teacher education and an each-one-teach-one program throughout the countryside. They inaugurated a healthy, independent agro-industry relying on domestic resources, which surpassed all other Caribbean economies in the rate of its growth and stability. They reduced the rate of unemployment from 40 to 14 percent. Furthermore, during their time of incarceration, the Grenada 17 have exhibited exemplary behavior, earning academic degrees in a variety of fields and running an educational program for other inmates, which has contributed substantially to those inmates' prospects for rehabilitation.

In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged clemency for the Grenada 17, stating that the time had come for healing and reconciliation. We join him, as well as Amnesty International and those honourable judges who have demonstrated their integrity and independence through rulings favourable to the 17, in calling upon Prime Minister Mitchell and the Grenada government to do what's best for all concerned: Set the 17 free, and let Grenada move forward into a future no longer afflicted by the pain and mistakes of the past.


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Sherri RivasBy:
City LifeIn:
Petition target:
Keith Mitchell, the Prime Minister of Grenada; The Commonwealth Leaders; Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; OAS Human Rights Commission

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