Sir Daniel Williams,
Governor General of Grenada
West Indies 28/02/2007
Dear Sir Daniel,
Re: - The Grenada 13
Following the recent judgement of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the case of the Grenada 13, I am writing on behalf of the Committee for Human Rights in Grenada to request that, in the interests of justice, you exercise your powers under Section 60 of the West Indies Associates States Supreme Court (Grenada) Act and refer this matter back to the Court of Appeal. We make this request as we believe that the original trial contained many irregularities which affected the outcome of the hearing, and these concerns were not dealt with adequately by the Court of Appeal, whose written judgement justifying their decision has still not been published. We are not alone in our concerns; in a detailed report produced in 2003 Amnesty International concludes:
“The trial that convicted the Grenada 17 was fraught with violations of international standards governing fair trials. In line with international human rights standards, Amnesty International believes that the Grenada 17 cannot continue to be incarcerated on the grounds of a conviction that was obtained via a process that was in gross violation of international standards governing the fairness of trials.”
The report from Amnesty proposed that the Grenadian authorities set up an independent judicial review into the case, but three years on, no action has been taken and it is our view that justice demands that you refer this matter back to the Court of Appeal. I am enclosing a copy of the full Amnesty International Report for your information, but I am setting out in this letter some of the principal irregularities in the original proceedings.
The investigation into the killing of Maurice Bishop and the others was conducted by police officers from other Caribbean nations, including Barbados and Jamaica. Bernard Coard and ten other defendants alleged that they were tortured by the investigating officers, and eleven of the 17 gave confessions implicating themselves and others in the murders. None of the defendants were allowed to have legal representatives present, despite many of them requesting lawyers. This is a serious breach of their rights under international law. Although all of the confessions were subsequently withdrawn, the trial judge allowed them to be given in evidence during the trial. A number of the defendants provided detailed accounts of their alleged treatment and others made specific requests for an investigation. The court did conduct its own investigation, but it found no evidence of torture having taken place. The AI report states:
“From its examination of the trial transcript and other documentation, Amnesty International views the investigation into the allegations of torture as woefully inadequate. The Court limited its investigations to a few questions posed to a handful of witnesses. The Court appeared to rely primarily on the testimony of the police officers against whom the allegations were made, who, not surprisingly, stated that no torture took place and that the statements were given of the defendants’ free will. The Court ignored numerous avenues of inquiry into the allegations of torture.
A confession of guilt is one of the most powerful pieces of evidence against any individual accused of a serious crime. It is highly likely that any juror hearing evidence of a confession will be of a mind to move towards a guilty verdict immediately and less likely to be influenced by other evidence of guilt or innocence.”
Under international law and the Constitution of Grenada, every person has the right to a hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law. Despite these essential principles enshrined in the constitution, the Grenada 17 were tried before a court created specifically for their case which, according to Amnesty International, “lacked both independence and impartiality”. Before the trial commenced, the Court of Appeal ruled that the proposed court was indeed not constitutional, but allowed the trial to continue, deeming it a court of necessity, even though no such principle exists in Grenadian or international law, and even though a tribunal deemed unconstitutional cannot be considered a lawful court of law. The report continues:
“Amnesty International remains gravely concerned that even though the trial took place in excess of two years after the invasion, the authorities had either failed or were reluctant to ensure that an appropriately constituted court had been established.”
There were also irregularities in the selection of the jury for the trial. A pool of jurors was arranged by the Registrar of the Court, but he was subsequently removed and the jury pool which he had established was dismissed. The Registrar was replaced by Denise Campbell, who had been a member of the prosecution team. When this was pointed out to the judge, he indicated that he was satisfied that when Miss Campbell took up her appointment as Registrar, she had no connection with the prosecution team. This is despite the testimony of the Chief Personnel Officer of the Public Service Commission that she had been appointed on 5th March 1986, a date when she was technically appearing for the prosecution, and that the paperwork to establish her as Registrar had been initiated on 3rd March, the day before the judge decided that the original jury had not been appropriately established.
The second jury pool was not selected in the normal manner and took place in the absence of the defendants and their lawyers. The pool contained repeat jurors, the irregularity for which the previous pool had been dismissed, but for some reason, on this occasion, neither the prosecution nor the judge objected. Some members of the jury pool are alleged to have cheered when the judge informed the defence lawyers that they were liable to be cited for contempt of court during the preliminary hearing. One of the lawyers, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, said that the array of jurors made hostile remarks and threatened the accused, calling them murderers and criminals--while Arthur Cruickshank says that he heard members of the jury pool say that the accused were all murderers and must hang. It was from this array of jurors that the twelve persons chosen to try the case were selected.
Before the trial, the defendants were often barred from meeting with their lawyers, and when they were allowed access, it was often limited to a half hour consultation. This restricted access continued throughout the trial process and extended to the withholding of correspondence and documents necessary for the preparation of their defence. During the early stages of the trial, the defendants consulted with their lawyers and instructed them to withdraw from the trial. They were therefore unrepresented at the trial, and they were often barred from participating in the hearings because of their disruptive behaviour. As a result, the prosecution presented the bulk of its evidence without the defendants present. In their report, Amnesty International concludes:
“Whatever the defendants’ behaviour, it in no way relieves the State of its duty to ensure that the defendants were legally represented at all times. The appropriate course of action would have been to appoint legal counsel to represent the defendants; leaving the 17 unrepresented in court when their very lives were at stake should not have been an option.”
During the trial the defendants were, in violation of the constitution and international human rights standards of due process, denied access to numerous documents which had been seized by US forces and which were deemed by the defendants to be essential to their case. The defendants applied to the court to have the documents returned, and the court did issue a writ to the US Ambassador. However, when the Ambassador invoked immunity and stated that the embassy did not have possession of the various documents, the judge stated that there was no action of a compulsive nature in which the court could engage. (Amnesty International disagrees with this assertion, arguing that it was incumbent on the Court to make further attempts to obtain the documents to ensure a fair trial. While the embassy might not have had the documents, this did not mean that they were not in the possession of the US Government elsewhere. AI believes that further attempts should have been made to obtain the documents from the US authorities.) The judge then went on to rule that the documents were not strictly necessary for the defence. The Amnesty report concludes:
“Amnesty International would profoundly disagree with this assertion and ruling. While the organisation is not in a position to ascertain how the documentation requested would have affected the trial, it is clear that written documents detailing times, events, statements and those present at various locations could have impacted on the trial. The allegations against the Grenada 17 centred around a sequence of events and a schism within the New Jewel Movement. If documentation had shown that the prosecution witnesses had misled the court about these events, it would constitute important evidence. Amnesty International fears that the Court’s unwillingness to try every avenue to obtain the documentation is a possible indication of the Court’s bias against the defendants and its willingness to tolerate low standards of jurisprudence.”
The prosecution case against the Grenada 17 rested heavily on the evidence of one witness, Cletus St Paul. The trial judge made this clear to the jury when he told them that without his evidence there could be no conviction. At the trial, St Paul claimed that the Central Committee arrived at Fort Frederick just after 11am and immediately sent troops to Fort Rupert with orders to liquidate Maurice Bishop. If this was true, the troops would have arrived at Fort Rupert by 11:30, but many other witnesses put the timing at 1PM. Amnesty points out that:
“Many of these witnesses were not called to testify at the trial, even though they had been interviewed by police and the prosecution. Furthermore, the defendants were not allowed to call these witnesses on their behalf.”
Errol George, for example, was at Fort Frederick on 19th October and heard no instructions being given to the soldiers, and states that there were only three members of the Central Committee present. At the time St Paul claims he heard the orders being given, Errol was with St Paul, and he disputes his evidence in every respect. Errol George was listed in the indictment as a prosecution witness, but he was not called, and the defence was not allowed to call him. The original President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Haynes, expressed concern about conflicting statements by St Paul and intended to call him to appear at the court to answer questions about his testimony, but sadly, Justice Haynes died before the hearing took place. This issue was raised at the Court of Appeal by Clarence Hughes, QC who indicated to the court that the defence had information that some or all of the three statements given to the police by St Paul were contradictory to his evidence at both the Preliminary Hearing and the Trial. He advised the court that he had been told by Justice Haynes that the contradictions were so great he could hardly believe that the police statements were from St Paul. Where the prosecution knows that a witness has given a prior statement that is different to the trial evidence, they are under a legal duty to show it to the defence, but the defendants were never advised that the prior statements existed.
Mr Hughes therefore requested that the statements be produced in the interest of justice, but this request was strongly opposed by the prosecution. The next day, the court refused the application for the prior statements to be examined, President Smith accepting the prosecution’s word that there were no contradictions in the evidence, and deciding justice was best served by denying the application.
It is the view of the Committee For Human Rights in Grenada that these and other irregularities render the original verdict unsafe, and that justice can only be done if the Court of Appeal is allowed to look at this issue afresh. The documents needed by the defence have been returned to Grenada by the United States Government, and so they are now available for the appeal. The Court will also be able to inspect the five versions of the evidence given by Cletus St Paul, and conduct a proper enquiry into the allegations of torture made by many of the defendants. There can be no moral justification for refusing to allow a referral back to the Court of Appeal and allowing these people justice at last.