REPORT Nº 47/01

CASE 12.028



April 4, 2001



I.          SUMMARY


1.          This Report concerns a capital punishment petition that was presented by letter dated May 29, 1998, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter referred to as “the Commission”) on behalf of Mr. Donnason Knights, by Saul Lehrfreund Esq., Solicitor of Messrs. Simon Muirhead & Burton, a firm of Solicitors in London, United Kingdom (hereinafter referred to as “the Petitioners”) against the State of Grenada (hereinafter referred to as "the State” or “Grenada”) for alleged violations of Mr. Knights’ human rights guaranteed under the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter referred to as “the Convention").[1]


2.          The Petitioners claim that on August 2, 1995, Donnason Knights was convicted of the murder of Cherrie Ann Matthew (which was committed on 9 September, 1993), (hereinafter referred to as “the deceased”) pursuant to Section 234 of the Criminal Code of Grenada.[2] Mr. Knights was sentenced to death by hanging, and is awaiting execution at Richmond Hill Prison, in Grenada. The Petitioners claim that Mr. Knights appealed his conviction to the Eastern Court of Appeal in Grenada and his appeal was dismissed by the Court on 16 September, 1996.  The Petitioners indicate that Mr. Knights’ applied to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (hereinafter referred to as “the Privy Council”) for Special Leave to Appeal as a Poor Person, and was granted the same on April 10, 1997.  However, the Privy Council dismissed his appeal  on 21 May 1998.


3.          The Petitioners argue that the State has violated Mr. Knights’ human rights guaranteed under Articles 4(1), 4(6), 5(1), 5(2), 5(6), 8, and 24 of the American Convention, and request that the Commission recommend to the State that it quash Mr. Knights death sentence and release him from detention.


4.          The Petitioners contend that if Mr. Knights is executed while this petition is pending determination by the Commission, it would result in irreparable damage to him.  Therefore, the Petitioners request that the Commission issue Precautionary Measures pursuant to Article 29(2) of its Regulations against the State and ask the State to suspend Mr. Knights’ execution pending the determination of his petition by the Commission.


5.          To date, the State has not responded to any of the Commission’s communications, nor has it presented any information to the Commission pertaining to the admissibility and merits of the petition.


6.          The Commission finds that the petition is admissible pursuant to Articles 46 of the American Convention, and finds that the State violated Donnason Knights human rights guaranteed by Articles 4(1), 4 (6), 5(1), 5(2) 8 and 25 of the American Convention in conjunction with Article 1(1) of the Convention. In addition, the Commission requested  that the State take all the appropriate measures necessary to stay the execution of Mr. Knights to avoid irreparable harm to him, and ensure that he is not arbitrarily deprived of his life.




7.          Upon receipt of the petition dated May 29, 1998, the Commission complied with the requirements of its Regulations.  The Commission studied the petition, requested information from the parties, and forwarded the pertinent parts of each party’s submission to the other party.


8.          The Commission opened case Nº 12.028 in the matter and the pertinent parts of the petition were forwarded to the State on July 2, 1998 pursuant to Article 34 of its Regulations. The Commission requested that the State provide it with information within 90 days that would permit the Commission to process and study the petition, including determining whether domestic remedies had been exhausted. The Commission also requested that the State stay Mr. Knights’ execution pending an investigation by it of the alleged facts.


9.          By letters dated August 18, 1999,  and May 4, 2000 the Commission reiterated its request to the State to provide the Commission with information that it deemed appropriate within 30 days to determine the facts alleged in the case. By letter dated September 13, 2000, the Commission reiterated its request to the State for information in relation to the petition that the State deemed appropriate, within 7 days of receipt.  In addition, on September 13, 2000, the Commission wrote to the State and Petitioners informing them that the Commission places itself  at their disposal with a view to reaching a friendly settlement of the matter on the basis of respect for the human rights recognized in the Convention pursuant to Article 48(1)(f) of the Convention.


10.          October 13, 2000, the Petitioner wrote to the Commission and informed it, that the Petitioner “would not be willing to enter into a friendly settlement in view of the fact that the State Party itself concerned has shown no willingness to actively participate in this matter and is not prepared to be engaged in the friendly settlement process.”


11.          To date, the State has not responded to any of the Commission’s communications, nor has it presented any information to the Commission pertaining to the admissibility and merits of the petition.



A.          Position of the Petitioners


1.          Background of the Case


12.          The Petitioners claim that the evidence produced by Mr. Knights and his witnesses at trial appear to suggest that Mr. Knights himself was attacked by the deceased’s killer and suffered injuries in the process.  Mr. Knights’ unsworn testimony was that after spending the night of September 8, 1993, with the deceased, both him and deceased were attacked by a man in black with a weapon in his hand and a mask on his face.  Mr. Knights also testified that he and the deceased ran from the man, became separated, and later he was attacked by a man with a mask who stabbed him with a knife. In addition, Mr. Knights testified that after being stabbed, he could not remember what transpired afterwards, and that he woke up in the General Hospital.


13.          In addition, the Petitioners claim that at trial, Dr. Mary Courtenay, Mr. Knights’ witness testified under oath that she is a registered medical practioner in Grenada, attached to the Princess Alice Hospital.  Dr. Courtenay testified that upon examination of Mr. Knights, she determined that he suffered three stab wounds 3 cms long and one 2 cms long, and that those wounds could have been caused by a sharp instrument with a point such as a knife. Dr. Courtenay also testified that Mr. Knights suffered a small abrasion to the left cheek, and that the measure of force would have been moderate to inflict those wounds. On cross examination, Dr. Courtenay stated that there was a possibility that the wounds could have been self inflicted.[3] Mr. Knights also called Evelyn Peters as a witness, who testified under oath that she is a “blood banker” at the General Hospital, and she usually tests blood. Ms. Peters testified that she tested Mr. Knights blood and that his blood type is  “Group ORH positive and tendered a certificate into evidence depicting the same. ” The Petitioners maintain that the blood type which was found on the knife at the scene of the crime was that of ”Group AB.”[4]


2.          Position of the Petitioners on Admissibility


14.          The Petitioners argue that Mr. Knights has exhausted the domestic remedies in Grenada because he appealed his August 2, 1995 conviction for capital murder to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, and the Court dismissed his appeal on September 16, 1996. The Petitioners maintain that Mr. Knights Petition for Special Leave to Appeal as a Poor Person was dismissed by the Privy Council on May 21, 1998. 


15.          The Petitioners contend that Mr. Knights has a Constitutional remedy in theory, but that the State’s failure to provide legal aid for Constitutional Motions denies Mr. Knights access to a court and hence to an effective remedy for violations of the American Convention. The Petitioners indicate that Section 16(1) of Grenada’s Constitution[5] gives an individual the right to apply to the High Court for redress in respect of alleged Constitutional violations by way of a Constitutional Motion. The Petitioners argue that Mr. Knights is unable to pursue a Constitutional Motion in the High Court of Grenada because the practical barriers render such a remedy illusory. In particular, the Petitioners contend that the Constitution is a complex legal document, and therefore a Constitutional Motion clearly requires expert legal representation to establish a reasonable prospect of success. The Petitioners also maintain that Mr. Knights does not have private funding to pursue a Constitutional Motion. Further, the Petitioners indicate that there is a dearth of Grenadian lawyers who are prepared to represent Mr. Knights without payment. Consequently, according to the Petitioners, a Constitutional Motion is not an available remedy for Mr. Knights.


16.          In addition, the Petitioners argue that the absence of Legal Aid for an impecunious individual to pursue a Constitutional Motion is sufficient failure on the part of the State to satisfy the Commission that the remedy is not available. In support of their position, the Petitioners cite the decisions of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) in Champagnie, Palmer & Chisolm v. Jamaica, in which the HRC stated as follows:


With respect to the authors’ possibility of filing a Constitutional Motion, the Committee considers that, in the absence of Legal Aid, a Constitutional Motion does not constitute an available remedy in the case.  In light of the above, the Committee finds that it is not precluded by Article 5(2)(b) of the Optional Protocol from considering the communication.[6]


3.          Position of the Petitioners on the Merits


a.       Articles 4, 5, 8 and 24 of the Convention - The Mandatory Nature of the Death Penalty and The Prerogative of Mercy


i.          The Mandatory Death Penalty


17.          The Petitioners claim that by imposing a mandatory death sentence on Mr. Knights upon his conviction for murder, the State violated his human rights guaranteed under Articles 4(1), 4(6), 5(1), 5(2), 5(6), 8 and 24 of the Convention.


18.          The Petitioners referred to the legislative history of the death penalty in Grenada. The Petitioners state that until 1974, Grenada was a British Colony whose penal law consisted of the common law and local penal codes as developed in England and Wales, and that pursuant to the (British) Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the penalty for murder was death. The Petitioners claim that in the United Kingdom, Section 7 of the Homicide Act 1957 restricted the death penalty in the United Kingdom to the offence of capital murder pursuant to Section 5, or murder committed on more than one occasion under Section 6. The Petitioners also indicate that Section 5 of the Homicide Act classified a capital murder as murder by shooting or explosion, murder done in the course or furtherance of theft, murder done for the purpose of resisting or preventing arrest or escaping from custody, and murders of police and prison officers acting in the execution of their duties.


19.          In addition, the Petitioners maintain that Section 2 of the Homicide Act contained provisions for reducing the offence of murder to one of Manslaughter, when the murder was committed by a person, who at the time of the commission of crime, was suffering from such abnormality of mind so as to substantially impair his mental responsibility for the acts and admission in doing, or being a party to the killing (diminished responsibility).  The Petitioners indicate that Section 3 of the Homicide Act 1957 extended the common law defense of provocation whereby murder may be reduced to manslaughter where there is provocation by things done or said causing a person to loose his self control. In addition, the Petitioners report that the Homicide Act 1957 was not applied in Grenada before Independence and that no provision has been made for non-capital murder or the defense of diminished responsibility.


20.          According to the Petitioners, Grenada became an independent State on February 7, 1974, when it adopted its Constitution. They also indicate that Chapter I of Grenada’s Constitution provides for the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual. Article 5 of Grenada’s Constitution in particular provides:


(1)      No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other treatment.


(2)      Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this Article to the extent that the law in question authorises the infliction of any description of punishment that was lawful in Grenada immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution.


21.          In light of the terms of Article 5 of the Constitution, the Petitioners indicate that they accept that the sentence of death for murder does not violate the Constitution of Grenada, and that Article 5(2) of Grenada’s Constitution precludes the Courts of Grenada or the Privy Council from interpreting the right to freedom from inhuman or degrading punishment under the Constitution as prohibiting the administration of the death penalty in every case upon a conviction for murder.[7]  At the same time, the Petitioners argue that imposing a mandatory death sentence on Mr. Knights, without providing him with an opportunity to present evidence of mitigating circumstances relating to him or his offense, violates Mr. Knights’ rights under Articles 4, 5, 8 and 24 of the Convention.


22.          In support of their position, the Petitioners refer to the practice in other states. They argue, for example, that in the case of Woodson v. North Carolina[8] the United States Supreme Court held that the automatic imposition of the death sentence on all those convicted of a specific offence is inconsistent with “the evolving standards of decency that are the hallmark of a maturing society.”  The Petitioners argue that the Supreme Court made it plain that the application of the mandatory death sentence imposed in all cases of murder without objective criteria for its application in particular cases after a fair hearing was unconstitutional.  In addition, the Petitioners indicate that the Supreme Court held further that:


[i]n capital cases the fundamental respect for humanity underlying the eight amendment … requires consideration of the character and record of the individual offender and the circumstances of the particular offense as a constitutionally indispensable part of the process of inflicting the penalty of death.[9]


23.          In addition, the Petitioners contend that the South African Constitutional Court has gone further and followed the Hungarian Constitutional Court in declaring the death penalty to be unconstitutional per se in Decision 23/1990(X.31). Conversely, in the case of Bachan Singh v. The State of the Punjab, the Supreme Court of India determined that the death penalty is not unconstitutional per se,[10] in part because there was a judicial discretion as to whether it should be imposed. Based upon these domestic authorities, the Petitioners argue that states retaining the death penalty must distinguish between capital and non-capital murder, and must provide a proper sentencing procedure for considering whether the death penalty should be imposed in capital cases.  

24.          In this connection, the Petitioners make reference to a 1992 amendment to Jamaica's Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which distinguishes capital from non- capital murder. They contend that if Mr. Knights was tried in the United Kingdom or Jamaica, he would have been tried on a charge of “non capital murder,” as his offence was not a murder of such special or heinous character as to merit the death penalty. Finally, the Petitioners claim that the law of Belize has introduced judicial discretion in the application of the death penalty.


25.          The Petitioners argue that the American Convention is a living, breathing and developing instrument reflecting contemporary standards of morality justice and decency and that it shares this quality with other international instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (hereinafter referred to as the "ICCPR") and the European Convention For the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereinafter referred to as the "European Convention").[11] The Petitioners state that they accept that Article 4 of the American Convention does not render the death penalty per se unlawful. They add, however, that according to commentators,[12] Article 4 of the Convention is more restrictive of the circumstances under which the death penalty can be imposed than the comparable provisions of the ICCPR and the European Convention. 


26.          According to the Petitioners, Article 4 of the Convention is expressly abolitionist in its direction and aspiration, and prescribes conditions for the implementation of the death penalty. For example, the death penalty cannot be applied to people below 18 years or over 70 years or for new offences. The Petitioners contend that two conditions in particular render the imposition of the mandatory death penalty in Mr. Knights’ case a violation of Article 4. First, it cannot be considered to have reserved the death penalty only for the "most serious offences," as required under Article 4(2). In addition, it fails to distinguish between different cases of murder or ensure like cases are treated alike, and consequently it is arbitrary and can give rise to unjust discrimination.


27.          More particularly, the Petitioners assert that the drafters of the American Convention, giving due consideration to the abolitionist tendencies of the Hispanic states and the restrictionist tendencies of the United States, intended the term “only for the most serious crimes” under Article 4(2) to go beyond mere legal label and to require some categorization or opportunity to make representations as to whether a particular allegation of murder merited death. Moreover, the Petitioners contend that the way in which the death penalty is administered in Grenada renders the deprivation of life arbitrary and contrary to Article 4(1) of the American Convention, and add that the fact that certain sentences of death are lawful under Article 4(2) of the American Convention does not mean that those sentences cannot be considered arbitrary under Article 4(1), or cruel, inhuman or degrading contrary to Article 5 of the American Convention.


28.          The Petitioners argue that similar conclusions can be reached with reference to Article 5 of the American Convention. According to the Petitioners, it has long been recognized by judicial authorities that the death penalty has features that prompt the description cruel and inhuman, but that this does not make it unlawfully carried out in conformity with a state’s international obligations.[13] At the same time, the Petitioners argue that the death penalty can be rendered illegal because of the manner in which it is imposed. In this regard, the Petitioners submit that certain factors pertaining to the manner in which Mr. Knights’ death sentence has been imposed can be considered to violate Article 5 of the Convention, and to render his execution unlawful under Article 4 of the Convention. These factors include the lapse of time since Mr. Knights’ sentence was imposed, the conditions of his detention on death row, and the cruelty of sentencing people to death, when there has been a moratorium on the application of the death sentence in Grenada for 20 years.


29.          In addition, the Petitioners argue that the mandatory death sentence imposed on Mr. Knights violates Articles 8 and 24 of the Convention, on the basis that Grenada’s Constitution does not permit Mr. Knights to allege that his execution is unconstitutional as being inhuman or degrading or cruel and unusual, and does not afford Mr. Knights a right to a hearing or a trial on the question of whether the death penalty should be either imposed or carried out. The Petitioners contend further that the State has violated Mr. Knights’ right to equal protection of the law by imposing a mandatory death sentence without any judicial proceedings to establish whether the death penalty should be imposed or carried out in the circumstances of his case. 


30.          The Petitioners assert that the mandatory death sentence is an arbitrary and disproportionate punishment unless there is allowance for individual mitigation, and that even a short custodial sentence cannot be imposed without affording such an opportunity for mitigation to be presented before the judicial authority imposing sentence. According to the Petitioners, fair and objective criteria are necessary in determining the question of whether a convicted murderer should actually be executed, and that if all murderers were executed, the death penalty would be cruel because it did not allow for any discretion.  The Petitioners also argue that a law which is mandatory at the sentencing stage and involves unfettered personal discretion at the commutation stage infringes both principles identified by the United States Supreme Court, and further violates the principle of equality before the law. The Petitioners argue that in Grenada, not every person who is sentenced to death is executed and that the Prerogative of Mercy operates to commute a number of sentences. 


31.          Finally, the Petitioners suggest that the State should consider converting the moratorium on executions that has existed in Grenada since 1978 into legislative abolition. In this regard, the Petitioners indicate that they accept that the State has not abolished the death penalty in its laws and has not applied the death penalty since 1978.  The Petitioners argue that for the past twenty years people have been sentenced to death for murder and suffer all the terrors of expectation of a hanging that confinement to the death row cells in Richmond Prison brings, without any real intention on the behalf of the authorities to carry this punishment into effect. The Petitioners contend that they respect the humanitarian tendencies of the Government of Grenada that led to the moratorium in the first place, but suggest that the de facto moratorium should be turned into legislative abolition. The Petitioners assert that if the State abolishes the death penalty through legislation, Mr. Knights’ death sentence should be speedily commuted to life imprisonment, so that the agony of suspense relating to his possible execution does not hang over him for years.


ii.          The Prerogative of Mercy


32.          The Petitioners argue that insofar as the rigors of the mandatory death penalty are mitigated by the power of pardon and commutation exercised by the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy, as prescribed under Articles 72, 73 and 74[14] of the Constitution of Grenada, there are no criteria for the exercise of such discretion, and no information as to whether such discretion is exercised on an accurate account of the admissible evidence as to the facts relating to the circumstances of the offence. They also claim that there is no right on the part of an offender to make either written or oral comments on the question of pardon, to see or comment on the report of the trial Judge which the Advisory Committee must consider under Article 74(1) of the Grenadian Constitution, or to comment on any reasons identified by the trial judge or others as to whether the sentence of death should be carried out.


33.          The Petitioners indicate in this regard that in the case of Reckley v. Minister of Public Safety No.2,[15] the Privy Council specifically held that a condemned man has no right to make representations or attend a hearing before the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy established pursuant to Articles 73 and 74 of Grenada’s Constitution. Rather, the Privy Council held that the power of pardon is personal to the responsible Minister and is not subject to judicial review, stating as follows:


The actual exercise by this designated Minister of his discretion in a death penalty case is different.  To concern with a regime, automatically applicable under the designated Minister, having consulted with the Advisory Committee, decides, in the exercise of his own personal discretion, whether to advise the Governor General that the law should or should not take its course.  Of its very nature, the Minister’s discretion, if exercised in favor of the condemned man, will involve a departure from the law.  Such a decision is taken as an act of mercy or as it used to be said as an act of grace.[16]


34.          The Petitioners also assert that the violation of Mr. Knights’ right to equality before the law by reason of the mandatory death penalty is further aggravated by the fact that he has no right to be heard before the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy, which itself is alleged to constitute a violation of Article 4(6) of the American Convention.  In this regard, the Petitioners argue that it may well be that poorer citizens of Grenada are less likely to receive commutation than wealthier citizens or other forms of discriminatory treatment which exist in the present arrangements, although they are unaware of any empirical studies on this issue as it pertains to Grenada.  The Petitioners referred to decisions of the United States Supreme Court and the South African Constitutional Court, in which a tendency of discrimination in the application of the Prerogative of Mercy has been identified. Moreover, the Petitioners contend that it must be for the party seeking to deprive Mr. Knights of his life to establish the absence of inequality and discrimination in the operation of its penal law.


b.          Article 5 - Conditions of Detention


35.          The Petitioners claim that the State has violated Mr. Knights’ rights under Articles 5(1) and 5(2) of the Convention, because of his conditions of detention, which they describe as follows:


He is locked in his cell measuring 9’x6’ on his own for 23 hours a day; he is provided with a bed and mattress, but there is no other furniture whatsoever in his cell; the cell has no windows and no natural lighting, and no ventilation; the only lighting in his cell is provided by a single naked bulb situated in the corridor in front of his cell; he is deprived of adequate sanitation and therefore has to use a bucket; he is allowed one opportunity a day to slop out; he is allowed one hour exercise per day which is taken in a small exercise yard; food provided is inadequate and he is made to eat alone; he is allowed one visitor a month for a duration of 15 minutes and he is allowed to write one letter a month; all prisoners on death row at Richmond Hill Prison are not permitted access to prison services; he is not allowed to use the prison library and he is also denied access to the Chaplin and religious services; there is inadequate medical care and no psychiatric care is provided to prisoners under sentence of death; and there is no adequate complaints mechanism for dealing with prisoners’ complaints.


36.          According to the Petitioners, since his incarceration in Richmond Hill Prison, Mr. Knights has been detained in conditions that have been condemned by international human rights organizations as being in violation of internationally recognized standards.  The Petitioners argue that non-governmental organizations have concluded that the State is in breach of a number of international instruments designed to give those detained a minimum level of protection, because of inadequate accommodations, sanitation, diet and health care. In support of their allegations, the Petitioners submitted a notarized Affidavit from Mr. Knights dated April 11th 1997, in which Mr. Knights describes his treatment and conditions of his confinement since his arrest and subsequent conviction for murder on July 11th, 1995.


37.          The Petitioners have also relied upon information regarding prison conditions in the Caribbean generally. In this connection, the Petitioners claim that all death row prisoners in Grenada are confined in Richmond Hill Prison, which was built in the 19th Century. They also claim that Richmond Hill Prison was designed to hold 130 prisoners, but that as of October 1996, the prison had a population of 330 prisoners. Further, the Petitioners refer to numerous reports prepared by the non-governmental organization, “Caribbean Rights.”  For example, in its 1990 report "Deprived of their Liberty," Caribbean Rights made the following observations about prison conditions in the Caribbean generally, including Grenada:


In most of the Caribbean prisons visited, prisoners had to use a bucket in front of others and were locked in with the bucket for many hours, often for 15 or 16 hours a day.  This was the case in the men’s prison in St. Vincent, Grenada, Trinidad and South Camp Rehabilitation Centre and St. Catherine District Prison in Jamaica.[17]


In both St. Vincent and Grenada the men’s prison uniform was a blue top and shorts, decent but not very conducive to dignity.


In Grenada, there were no separate punishment cells.  Prisoners on punishment were put in the special security blocks.  Corporal punishment was not available, but punishment were of two types, restricted diet and loss of remission up to 90 days, though it was reported that it was rare for a prisoner to lose that much remission.  There is no appeal machinery against the imposition of punishment.[18]  


38.          Caribbean Rights' 1990 Report also indicated that in 1990, there were approximately 20 prisoners under sentence of death in Grenada, and described conditions on death row in Grenada as follows:


The prisoners under sentence of death were kept in special security blocks attended by prison officers wearing a different uniform from the prison officers in the rest of the prison, a green combat-type uniform.  There were three such blocks, each with a corridor down the middle and 8 to 10 cells on each side of the door.  The cell doors are solid with a rectangular aperture at eye level.  The prisoners in the blocks wore the same clothes as the other prisoners, that is a blue shirt and blue shorts.  Upon the arrival of the visiting party, the prison officers in the special security blocks opened the outer door, salute to the senior officer present and recited a military style statement about the numbers locked up and everything being in order.  Then the officer walked down the row shouting the name of each prisoner as he passed.  The prisoner then stood to attention in the middle of the cell, hands behind his back and replied, “Sir.” … The prisoners in the special security blocks are reported to get one hour of exercise a day if possible, sometimes more.”[19]


39.          Based in part upon these observations, Caribbean Rights reached several conclusions and made several recommendations in respect of the conditions of detention of condemned prisoners in the Caribbean, including the following:


The treatment of death row prisoners exacerbates a punishment that is already completely unacceptable.  The exceptional inhumanity of the physical conditions as reported in Guyana and Trinidad and seen in St. Vincent and Grenada constitute an intolerable imposition of cruelty.  It is understandable that high security must be imposed and some surveillance is necessary.  But keeping death sentenced prisoners, sometimes for years, in conditions equivalent to or worse than those of punishment cells, intolerable.[20]


The holding of prisoners sentenced to death in the conditions currently obtaining in the special security blocks in Grenada is inappropriate and should cease forthwith.


That subjecting prisoners under sentence of death to living with the lights on for 24 hours a day should cease forthwith.


That restricting the programme of activities of prisoners awaiting sentence of death to one hour of exercise a day should cease forthwith.


That prisoners under sentence of death should be entitled to substantial amounts of visiting time with their families.


40.          Similarly, in a December 1991 Report entitled “Improving Prison Conditions in the Caribbean," Caribbean Rights noted several concerns raised by Vivien Stern, the Secretary General of Penal Reform International, regarding the visitation rights of prisoners and their ability to send and receive letters:


In Grenada, the official visiting allowance is 15 minutes a month for convicted prisoners.  It is 15 minutes a week for unconvicted prisoners.  Normal civilised contact was impossible. The visit took place through grilles with a gap between the two grilles of about 18 inches, through which the visitor and the prisoner had to communicate.  Probably the best they can do in these circumstances is to shout at each other.  Writing letters is another way of keeping contact.  Here too there were severe restrictions.  In Grenada, prisoners can write and receive one letter a month.  All ingoing and outgoing mail was read by censors, even for the most minor offenders.[21]




[1] The State of Grenada ratified the American Convention on July 18, 1978.

[2] (Cap. 76) of the 1958 Revised Laws of Grenada.

[3] Trial Transcript, pages 78-79.

[4] Trial Transcript, Judge’s summing up, pages 24-25.

[5] Section 16(1) of the Constitution of Grenada states: “if any person alleges that any of the provisions of sections 2 to 15 inclusive of this Constitution has been, is being or is likely to be contravened in relation to him (or, in the case of a person who is detained, if any other person alleges such a contravention in relation to the detained person), then, without prejudice to any other action with respect to the same matter which is lawfully available, that person (or other person) may apply to the High Court for redress.”

[6] U.N.H.R.C., Champagnie, Palmer & Chisolm v. Jamaica, Communication Nº 445/1991. Article 5(2) of the United Nations Optional Protocol provides in part: “The Committee shall not consider any communication from an individual unless it has ascertained that: (b) The individual has exhausted all available domestic remedies.  This shall not be the rule where the application of the remedies is unreasonably prolonged."

[7] In this regard, see Guerra v. Baptiste and others [1995] 4 All E.R. 583 (P.C.). In this case, the appellant, who had been convicted of murder in Trinidad and Tobago and sentenced to death, argued, inter alia, that to execute him after the period of time that he spent on death row would constitute a breach of his rights under the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago and the principles established by the Privy Council in the case of Pratt and Morgan v. A.G. for Jamaica. In finding that the Court had jurisdiction to entertain the appellant’s constitutional argument, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council relied upon its determination in Pratt and Morgan and found that judges in Trinidad and Tobago would as a matter of common law have the power to stay a long delayed execution as not being in accordance with the due process of law, and therefore that a long delayed execution was not barred from challenge as cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution. At the same time, the Court confirmed that the death penalty itself could not be challenged under the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago:

Before the coming into force of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago 1976 (and indeed the 1982 Constitution) capital punishment was accepted as a punishment which could lawfully be imposed, so that execution pursuant to a lawful sentence of death could amount to depriving a person of his life by due process of law, and could not itself amount to cruel and unusual punishment contrary to s. 5(2)(b).

[8] Woodson v. North Carolina, 49 L Ed 2d 944(1976).

[9] Id., at 961.

[10] Bachan Singh v. the State of the Punjab, (1980) 2 SCC 684).

[11] See e.g. Soering v. UK (1989) 11 EHHR 439.

[12] See William Schabas, Abolition of the Death Penalty in International Law (1993), pp. 263-279.

[13] See State v. Makwanyane and McHunu, Judgment, Case Nº CCT/3/94 (6 June 1995)(Constitutional Court of South Africa). See also U.N.H.R.C., Ng v.  Canada, Communication Nº 469/1991, at p. 21 (suggesting that every execution of a sentence of death may be considered to be cruel and inhuman treatment within Article 7 of the ICCPR).

[14] Articles 72, 73 and 74 of the Constitution of Grenada read as follows:

72(1) The Governor-General may, in Her Majesty’s name and on Her Majesty’s behalf. - (a) grant a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions, to any person convicted of any offence; (b) grant to any person a respite, either indefinite or for a specified period, of the execution of any punishment imposed on that person for any offence; (c) substitute a less severe form of punishment for any punishment imposed on a person for any offence; or (d) remit the whole or any part of any punishment imposed on any person for any offence or of any penalty or forfeiture otherwise due to the Crown on account of any offence.”

(2) The powers of the Governor-General under subsection (1) of this section shall be exercised by him in accordance with the advice of such Minister as may for the time being be designated by the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister."

73 (1) There shall be an Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy which shall consist of – (a) the Minister for the time being designated under Section 72(2) of this Constitution who shall be the Chairman; (b) the Attorney General; (c) the chief medical officer of the Government of Grenada; and (d) three other members appointed by the Governor-General, by instrument in writing under his hand.

(2) A member of the Committee appointed under subsection (1)(d) of this section shall hold his seat thereon for such period as may be specified in the instrument by which he was appointed: Provided that his seat shall become vacant – (a) in the case of a person who, at the date of his appointment was a Minister, if he ceases to be a Minister; or (b) if the Governor-General by instrument in writing under his hand, so directs.

(3) The Committee may act notwithstanding any vacancy in its membership or absence of any member and its proceedings shall not to be invalidated by the presence or participation of any person not entitled to be present at or to participate in those proceedings.

(4) The Committee may regulate its own procedure.

(5) In the exercise of his functions under this section, the Governor-General shall act in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.

74(1) Where any person has been sentenced to death (otherwise than by a court-martial) for an offence, the Minister for the time being designated under section 72(2) of this Constitution shall cause a written report of the case from the trial judge (or, if a report cannot be obtained from the judge, a report on the case from the Chief Justice), together with such other information derived from the record of the case or elsewhere as he may require, to be taken into consideration at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy; and after obtaining the advice of the Committee he shall decide in his own deliberate judgment whether to advise the Governor-General to exercise any of his powers under section 72(1) of this Constitution.

(2) The Minister for the time being designated under section 72(2) of this Constitution may consult with the Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy before tendering advice to the Governor-General under section 72(1) of this Constitution in any case not falling within subsection (1) of this section but he shall not be obliged to act in accordance with the recommendation of the Committee.

[15] Reckley v. Minister of Public Safety (Nº 2) (1996) 2 WLR 281.

[16] Id., pp. 290 d- f.

[17] Caribbean Rights Report 1990, p. 40.

[18] Id., pp.62-63.

[19] Id. p. 80.

[20] Id. p. 81.

[21] Caribbean Rights Report 1991, p.30.