The Grenada 17 Prisoners
in Richmond Hill Prison—ALL RELEASED
- Austin, Hudson H.A. also The General - released 18 December 2008
- Bartholomew, Dave Tan - released 5 September 2009
- Bernard, Callistus Abdullah - released 5 September 2009
- Coard, Bernard - released 5 September 2009
- Coard, Phyllis - extended medical leave granted in 2000; released
- Cornwall, Leon Bogo - released 5 September 2009
- James, Liam Owusu - released 5 September 2009
- Joseph, Vincent - released 2 December 2006
- Layne, Ewart Headache - released 5 September 2009
- McBarnette, Colville Kamau- released 18 December 2008
- Mitchell, Andy - released 2 December 2006
- Prime, Cecil Dumpy - released 27 June 2007
- Redhead, Lester Goat - released 27 June 2007
- Richardson, Cosmos - released 2 December 2006
- Strachan, Selwyn Sello - released 5 September 2009
- Stroude, Christopher Chris - released 27 June 2007
- Ventour, John Chalkie - released 18 December 2008
Following the tragedies of October 1983, the 12 men and one woman were accused of the murder of Maurice Bishop and 10 others. They were tried in what has become known as "The Maurice Bishop Murder Trial." Those listed above were convicted and sentenced on 4 December 1986: 14 were given the verdict of murder and sentenced to death by hanging; 2 were found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 45 years; 1 was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 30 years. Raeburn Nelson was found not guilty and freed.
The death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on 14 August 1991 to all 14 of the condemned. The Prerogative of Mercy decision was based on the Grenada Constitution, sections 72, 73 and 74 from Chapter IV.
Amnesty International 2003
On 23 October 2003, Amnesty International issued a press release -
. . . calling on the Grenadian Government to redress the injustice of the unfair trial inflicted on 17 political prisoners known as the Grenada 17, as the 20th anniversary of their detention approaches.
The organization is urging the Grenadian authorities to establish an independent judicial review of the convictions of the Grenada 17, detained in the context of the invasion of the island by US forces, in the light of the irregularities documented.
Additionally, from Amnesty International:
If the Grenadian authorities prove unwilling to put into place an independent judicial review of their convictions, the only alternative action that would go in accordance with international human rights standards would be the release of the Grenada 17.
Report - The Grenada 17: the last of the cold war prisoners?
High Court Ruling 2004
Matters continue to be in a state of flux concerning the future of those called "The Grenada 17."
On Tuesday, 16 March 2004, under the ruling of a motion filed 2002, Justice Kenneth Benjamin, presiding over the Grenadian High Court, ruled that the life sentences of the Grenada 17 were unconstitutional. The Court also ruled on that same day that the initial mandatory death sentences passed in 1986 on 13 of the accused prisoners were illegal. You will recall the death sentences were commuted to life in prison in 1991.
Trinidadian Attorney Keith Scotland and Grenadian Attorney Cajeton Hood have been retained by most of the Grenada 17. Ewart Layne, according to reports, is acting his own behalf utilizing the expertise of his Masters of Law degree from the University of London.
By the end of the day, so to speak, the State of Grenada's Attorney General Raymond Anthony could file to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals and apply for a stay of execution of the Judge's decision pending the hearing of the appeal. From a decision of the Court of Appeal, an appeal to the Privy Council is possible. It is quite possible at the upcoming sentencing for them to receive immediate release. Other legal paths might occur. [This paragraph uploaded 17 March 2004].
There is information that the Grenada government appealed the High Court's Orders for re-sentencing on 26 April 2004. [This paragraph uploaded 1 May 2004].
The OECS High Court in its Court of Appeal, Monday through Thursday, 28 June - 1 July 2004, will be the time period the Grenada government will attempt to overturn the Grenadian High Court ruling of 16 March 2004 [see above]. Scotland and Hood will continue to represent the convicted men. Rohan Phillip will represent Karl Hudson-Phillips QC [who was called to serve on an international court in relation to Rwanda] for the Grenada government. [This paragraph uploaded 8 May 2004].
Hurricane Ivan - 7 September 2004
The after-effects of Hurricane Ivan on Richmond Hill Prison left extensive damage to the 17th C. structure. The overall report is that prisoners were permitted to go home to check on families and report back. Most all of the Grenada 17 chose to remain at the prison, according to one source. According to the US State Department in a Country Report on Human Rights Practices - 2004 for Grenada:
The main prison was damaged during Hurricane Ivan, and the authorities permitted some prisoners, including 15 of the 'Grenada 17,' to leave. The 15 prisoners returned at the end of each day, and the prison was repaired by year's end.
If you work out the numbers, the above statement implies the absence of Phyllis Coard, making the count of 16 prisoners. If, as was reported, Bernard Coard did not leave the prison, the count is reduced to the 15 in the US Department of State report.
Further High Court Ruling 2005
The Grenada 17 case [actually 13 for this hearing] went to an appeals hearing in St. Lucia, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), as Grenada's court building was damaged by Hurricane Ivan.
The appeal was rejected by the three-member ECSC on 14 February 2005, producing a 43-page written judgment. This verdict overturned a Grenada High Court judge decision that had the potential for their release.
An appeal on top of the appeal of 14 February 2005 above, was made to take the case to the British Privy Council, the highest court of appeal within the Commonwealth legal system. The appeal was granted on Wednesday, 29 June 2005 by the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal.
On Thursday, 6 July 2006, in the matter of a different legal initiative, also an appeal, to the Privy Council, the conclusion is that Vincent Joseph, Andy Mitchell and Cosmos Richardson, the three soldiers convicted of manslaughter with 30-year sentences, are to complete the remainder of their sentences. The details are thick and blurred, including the exact release dates.
At 9:23 a.m. on Saturday, 2 December 2006, Vincent Joseph, Andy Mitchell and Cosmos Richardson walked through the outermost gate of Richmond Hill Prison.
EVENT of Thursday 30 November 2006
STATEMENT FROM THE MINISTRY OF NATIONAL SECURITY ON THE RELEASE OF PRISONERS
On Saturday December 2nd 2006, three inmates convicted in the Maurice Bishop trial will be released. The three men,
were convicted on eleven counts of manslaughter and sentenced to thirty years in prison. These men have now served their time and will be release some time in the morning on Saturday. Under the law governing sentencing regulations, inmates' sentences are reduced by one third if they have been deemed as being industrious and well behaved. These inmates have qualified for the reduction in their sentences and will be released after serving twenty years of their time.
- Joseph, Vincent
- Mitchell, Andy
- Richardson, Cosmos
The Ministry of National Security would like to make it clear that the planned release of these men is not based on any court action but is instead as a direct result of the sentences being completed.
It is Government's hope that Mr. Joseph, Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Richardson will rejoin society as productive members of the community and will live a peaceful life having learned from their experience.
EVENT of Wednesday 7 February 2007
RESENTENCING PRIVY COUNCIL WRITTEN JUDGMENT - the link is the written judgment - check it out -
Privy Council Ruling
EVENT of Wednesday 27 June 2007
RESENTENCING PER PRIVY COUNCIL JUDGMENT
Three additional prisoners convicted in the Maurice Bishop trial were released at 4:10 p.m.
The release from Richmond Hill Prison was the decision of Justice Francis Belle, member of the Supreme Court of the Eastern Caribbean Court:
- Prime, Cecil Dumpy
- Redhead, Lester Goat
- Stroude, Christopher Chris
The morning session commenced on the 8th day of procedures, at 10 a.m., 27 June 2007. The remaining prisoners convicted in the Maurice Bishop trial, according to Judge Belle's ruling, are to be released within a five year period, i.e. officially resentenced for up to 40 years in prison. Most of the remaining have already served 35 years. The written judgment, expected to be issued by the East Caribbean Supreme Court in a couple of weeks, the middle of July 2007, will confirm information about the emotional decisions. Justice Belle's written decision on this website.
EVENT of 18 September 2007
THE GOVERNMENT OF GRENADA APPEALS RESENTENCING CASE; THEN INDICATORS REVEAL THE APPEAL IS WITHDRAWN
The Government of Grenada filed an appeal on 10 July 2007 to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States [OECS] Court of Appeals to revoke the decision of Judge Belle in the Resentencing Case of June 2007 because he had interaction with the People's Revolutionary Government and should recuse [remove] his jurisdiction in the case. The case was to be raised at the September 17 sitting of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in St. George's. "In the Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court Grenada Final Cause List 17th-21st September 2007" no appeal is registered.
A CALL FOR FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION BY BISHOP'S DAUGHTER NADIA
The convictions against 17 prisoners for killing former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, four Cabinet members and six supporters, are discussed above.
By special pre-arrangement, Nadia Bishop, the 35-year-old daughter of Maurice Bishop, who was executed during the 19 October 1983 tragedies, and Marcelle Belmar, sister of Gemma Belmar, who died during the 19 October 1983 tragedies, met at Richmond Hill Prison with 9 of those convicted prisoners.
Those who met with Nadia Bishop and Marcelle Belmar, included Dave Bartholomew, Callistus Bernard, Bernard Coard, Leon Cornwall, Liam James, Ewart Layne, Kamau McBarnette, Selwyn Strachan and John Ventour. Hudson Austin was absent. On other occasions, Ms. Bishop said she also spoke with Hudson Austin, who remains at Richmond Hill Prison, and Lester Redhead, recently released from there.
Ms. Bishop reports the 3-hour meeting, the evening of December 31, was one of forgiveness all around, and an invitation for national reconciliation for the new year.
EVENT of 18 December 2008
THREE ADDITIONAL PRISONERS RELEASED - AUSTIN, MCBARNETTE AND VENTOUR
The Government of Grenada released three additional prisoners of the remainder of prisoners known by some as 'The Genada 17'. Hudson 'H.A.' Austin, Colville 'Kamau' McBarnette and John 'Chalkie' Ventour left Richmond Hill Prison on Thursday, 18 December 2008. The Mercy Committee acting under their authority under Section 73, the Grenada Constitution and following the judgment of Justice Francis Belle on the 25 July 2007 had met on 16 December and made their recommendation. According to a Grenada Government report from Nazim Benjamin, webmaster of the Grenada Embassy in Caracas -
The Chairperson of the Mercy Committee, Hon. Glynis Roberts, pursuant to the decision of the Mercy Committee and in accordance with section 72 (2) of the Grenada Constitution, advised Governor General, H.E Carlyle Glean, to remit the balance of the sentences of Austin, Mc Barnette and Ventour, which would therefore cause them to be released immediately.
The Governor General on Wednesday 17th December 2008, duly issued documents remitting the balance of each respective sentence, allowing for the release of Austin, Mc Barnette and Ventour the same day.
The latest release leaves 7 of the 'Grenada 17' remaining at Richmond Hill Prison. They are Dave 'Tan' Bartholomew, Callistus 'Abdullah' Bernard, Bernard Coard, Leon 'Bogo' Cornwall, Liam 'Owusu' James, Ewart 'Headache' James and Selwyn 'Sello' Strachan. The 8th, Phyllis Coard, remains in Jamaica. She had been released for medical reasons on 18 March 2000 and went to Jamaica.
EVENT of 5 September 2009
All prisoners called the Grenada 17 are released. The remaining 7 were released 5 September 2009: Dave Bartholomew, Callistus Bernard, Bernard Coard, Leon Cornwall, Liam James, Ewart Layne, Selwyn Strachan.
*Richmond Hill Prison has a new automated gate with sentry house and visitor waiting area; nevertheless, the photo above captures the feel of the old gate and the antiquity of the prison facilities.