Between 1976 and 1991, sociopolitical conflict and armed U.S. intervention in Grenada resulted in violence and torture, human rights violations, killings, and, ultimately, societal collapse. The TRC sought to reconcile Grenada’s past, educate Grenadians, and compensate victims.
Problems and Purpose
For the purpose of informing the people of Grenada to reconcile its history of socio-political strife and ensuring non-recurrence, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Grenada operated from 4 September 2001 to 28 March 2006. The Commission sought to inquire into political events between 1976 and 1991 with an emphasis on the events leading up to and including those of 13 March 1979; shooting deaths from March to December 1983; the events of 19 October 1983, in which various persons including Prime Minister Bishop and other Ministers of Government died and their bodies have not been yet found; and forced armed intervention by the United States under the administration of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and a coalition of six Caribbean nations . The Commission hoped its efforts would provide the people of Grenada with a comprehensive understanding of its history that would lead toward reconciliation and healing .
Background History and Context
Head of Presentation Brothers’ College (PBC) Brother Robert Fanovich in St. George’s, Grenada, assigned his senior students a research project into the Revolution era and Maurice Bishop, whose body had not been yet discovered. Their project gained the attention of the Miami Herald, and the students went on to write about their research in a book called Big Sky, Little Bullet. Shortly after their discoveries attracted national attention, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established .
The Report provides a summary of the periods under review, separated into the pre-revolutionary period, the revolutionary period, and the post-revolutionary period.
During the pre-revolutionary period, from 1976 to 1979, Grenada experienced social unrest and political conflict mostly stemming from the autocratic and repressive style of Prime Minister Eric Gairy’s government, the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP). During Gairy’s administration, several protests and demonstrations were forcibly dismantled by the armed forces and the police . In 1979, the New Jewel Movement staged a coup and successfully overthrew Gairy’s government, which was succeeded by the Government of the Maurice Bishop People’s Revolutionary Government on 13 March .
The revolutionary period, from 1979 to 1983, is the aftermath of the overthrow of the Gairy regime, which led to a socio-political collapse in 1983. While the overthrow of the Gairy government was a time of liberation from almost three decades of political repression, the following years created space for a new political system that soon became “discernable as a desecration of democracy” . While the Revolution was initially welcomed by the majority of Grenadians, its militaristic brutality quickly lost its popularity and credibility .
The post-revolutionary period, from 1983 to 1991, Grenada gained some political and social stability and began to restore a level of democracy . During this period, the Governor General appointed an interim government, general elections took place, a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Fred Phillips was appointed to review the Grenada Constitution, former leaders were sentenced to death, and, as the Report notes, there were no serious incidents of violence in Grenada . It was during this period, in 1983, that the U.S. armed forces uncovered the bodies of Maurice Bishop and his eight colleagues in Camp Fedon .
The Report dedicates a section to “The Grenada 17,” referring to eighteen individuals who were arrested by Caribbean and American armed forces. The group was detained and handed over to Grenadian authorities, who charged them with the murder of Prime Minister Bishop Jacqueline Creft in 1983 . Following an unfair judicial process, in which The 17 were denied legal counsel, several constitutional motions to annul their trial were unsuccessful . This case was a catalyst for the TRC, which recommends that the state provide The 17 with a fair trial in existing or established courts .
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
On 4 September 2001, Governor General Sir Daniel Charles Williams appointed a group of commissioners to investigate political events which occurred in Grenada between 1 January 1976 and 31 December 1991 .
The Report includes a section of acknowledgments dedicated to its participants and volunteers but makes little mention of funding entities. Contributions, according to the Report, seem to be in the form of time or effort. It does note, however, that this TRC does not exist on the scale of the South African TRC due to a lack of financial or emotional capacity .
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The Commission had three appointed Commissioners: its Chairman, Hon. Donald A.B. Trotman, a former judge of the High Court of the Supreme Court of Guyana; His Lordship Bishop Sehon S. Goodridge, an Anglican Bishop of the Windward Islands; and the Rev’d Fr. Mark Haynes, a Roman Catholic Priest. It also had one appointed secretary: Ms. Annette Henry, Attorney at Law, and two former secretaries: Ms. Claudette Joseph, Attorney at Law; and Mrs. Eleanor Glasgow.
Methods Used and Limitations
Compensation was a major component of the healing process, which the Report indicates repeatedly throughout. During the TRC process, several victims claimed compensation for loss/damage to property, personal injury and wrongful dismissal from employment, and wrongful detention .
The Commission faced some obstacles in its process, including: 
- The wide gap of time between these events, causing some memories to fade or some witnesses having died or emigrated, leading evidence to be lost or suppressed
- The failure of some persons who know the truth to come forward for fear of repercussion of victimization
- A lack of provision for amnesty, witness protection, or undertakings not to prosecute persons who gave evidence or information
- Many persons have long purged those sordid portions of history from their minds and do not want to revisit them
- Many persons who have already reconciled their differences and grievances and do not want to hear anything more about what has already been done
However, the Commission provided a list of recommendations to combat obstacles to healing and reconciliation, including:
- Those in authority should make serious public appeals and take action nationally and internationally to recover the remains of those who were executed on Fort Rupert on 19 October 1983 
- Relevant authorities should revisit the question of compensation for those who suffered physical disability, a loss of limbs, can no longer work, or have lost substantial property or personal possessions 
- Authorities should build a monument in memory of those executed on Fort Rupert 
- Political authorities and all Grenadians should “help create in the country the type of climate that would both foster and support the process of healing and reconciliation” 
- Those who have perpetrated atrocities, crimes, or violence should take public responsibility for their wrongdoings 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The TRC process consisted of :
- Holding public sittings and hearing oral evidence from individuals and representative groups/organizations at its Scott Street Secretariat in St. George, such as evidence being given on oath or by affirmation
- Receiving and examining memoranda and letters from individuals and organizations submitted on their own initiative or by written invitation from the Commission
- Meeting and holding public discussions with residents of several parishes in Grenada and Carriacou in organized outreach programs
- Enlisting the services of a Public Relations Officer and 2 Field Officers to promote the aims and objectives of the TRC; arranging public awareness and sensitization programs; and informing the public of events planned by the Commission
- Giving interviews to the public media on the work and progress of the Commission and inviting comments and questions from the public
- Paying goodwill visits and courtesy calls to some eminent persons whom the Commission considered could give helpful information and advice on matters concerning its work
- Visiting and holding conversations with family members of victims of persons who died as a result of the violent events between 1976 and 1983
- Designing and circulating a questionnaire soliciting relevant answers and opinions in many parishes and districts
- Examining relevant reports of previous inquiries, studies, and publications on events occurring in Grenada from 1976 to 1991
- Issuing press releases
The Commissioners began taking evidence on 9 October 2001, which lasted until 26 August 2002, and heard from approximately seventy persons . Statement-givers included those who had been unlawfully detained, imprisoned, beaten and tortured, and suffered degrading and inhumane treatment, or, in some cases, statements were given by family members of victims .
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The Report notes that compensation was the “most overwhelming concern of the majority of those who came before the TRC” . It also provides a list of additional recommendations, including but not limited to :
- The Commission’s Report be made available for public information
- The Governor General initiate a National Reconciliation Council to facilitate the continuing process of healing and reconciliation
- That government authorities, the judiciary, and the police must respect people’s fundamental human and constitutional rights
- There must be more tolerance for people of differing political views and opinions in society
- That citizens of Grenada are vigilant in choosing their political leaders
The second volume of the TRC report includes a statement from The Grenada 17, which notes criticisms of the TRC. It states that, while the TRC claims to be similar to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it did not operate on a level playing field nor did it grant amnesties. Though the government of Grenada has “stated over and over again that it would like to resolve the matter of the seventeen,” it has failed to act. In 2007, the Privy Council ordered a resentencing of The Grenada 17, though most of their sentences had been reduced for good behaviour .
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Historical questions about U.S. intervention in Grenada have come to light since the invasion in 1983. Specifically, its legality, alternatives to armed intervention, and U.S. strategic interests are central to the discourse. Ultimately, historians Scott B. MacDonald, Herald M. Sandstrom, and Paul B. Goodwin Jr. conclude that judgments of the invasion require an analytical evaluation of both the costs and the benefits .
Following the U.S. invasion, Grenada restored democracy and held elections in November 1984, thus returning the Eastern Caribbean to its status as a group of democratic states. This also benefitted the United States twofold: its success in aiding Grenada served international interests on the world stage as it legitimized U.S. strength and efficiency; and restoring democracy in Grenada limited Marxist allies to Cuba during a time of high tension between Cuba and the United States .
The costs, however, were significant. The human cost, in which eighteen Americans were killed and 116 wounded, forty-five Grenadians were killed and 357 wounded, and twenty-four Cubans were killed and fifty-nine were wounded. The United States also bombed a mental hospital. Politically, a UN Security Council resolution condemned American action and declared it “a flagrant violation of international law” . U.S. intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean in the 1980s was reminiscent of its early-twentieth-century tendencies to employ armed force under Big Stick, in which U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s policy called for a public display of strength and superiority as a method of maintaining hegemonic power. While the United States is argued to have stepped away from Big Stick in the 1920s and 1930s – particularly under U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy – historical discourse has widely debated the lasting presence of violent hegemonic tendencies as a display of American exceptionalism. In this case, discourse notes that Reagan employed the invasion in an attempt to combat Vietnam Syndrome. As such, it is clear that U.S. intervention in Grenada was not necessarily in the interest of Grenadians, or even democracy, but had social and political implications – and benefits – for the United States.
The invasion also had consequences for the United States. The State Department falsely claimed that a mass grave containing victims of communist forces had been found, and deputy commander of the invasion force Major General Norman Schwarzkopf incorrectly inflated the number of casualties . Technical issues with the invasion, too, in which U.S. forces demonstrated a lack of intelligence about Grenada, showed problems with the American “information apparatus” .
The TRC has been criticized for its lack of publicity and accessibility since its publication. As such, while it is often compared to the South African TRC, it was not nearly as effective in reaching truth and reconciliation.
 The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Grenada, Report on Certain Political Events which Occurred in Grenada 1976-1991, Redeeming the Past: A Time for Healing. Vol. 1 (St. George’s, Grenada: Ministry of Legal Affairs, Labour and Local Government, 2006), 19.
 “TRC Report Contents.”
 The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Grenada, Report on Certain Political Events which Occurred in Grenada 1976-1991, 22.
 Ibid., 22-3.
 Ibid., 24.
 Ibid., 30.
 Ibid., 31-2.
 Ibid., 36.
 Ibid., 37.
 Ibid., 40.
 Ibid., 11.
 Ibid., 8.
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 12-3.
 Ibid., 46.
 Ibid., 48.
 Ibid., 49.
 Ibid., 51.
 Ibid., 53.
 Ibid., 19-20.
 Ibid., 68.
 Ibid., 85.
 Ibid., 94-6.
 "Grenada," Amnesty International.
 Scott B. MacDonald, Harald M. Sandstrom and Paul B. Goodwin, Jr., eds., The Caribbean After Grenada: Revolution, Conflict, and Democracy (New York: Praeger, 1988), 101.
 Ed Magnuson, “Getting Back to Normal,” Time Magazine (1983).
"Grenada," Amnesty International. Retrieved from https://www.amnestyusa.org/countries/grenada/
MacDonald, Scott B., Harald M. Sandstrom and Paul B. Goodwin, Jr., eds. The Caribbean After Grenada: Revolution, Conflict, and Democracy. New York: Praeger, 1988.
Magnuson, Ed. “Getting Back to Normal.” Time Magazine (1983). Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20080214134050/http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,926318-1,00.html
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Grenada. Report on Certain Political Events which Occurred in Grenada 1976-1991, Redeeming the Past: A Time for Healing. Vol. 1. St. George’s, Grenada: Ministry of Legal Affairs, Labour and Local Government, 2006. Retrieved from https://truthcommissions.humanities.mcmaster.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Grenada-TRC-2001-Full-Report.pdf
“TRC Report Contents,” www.thegrenadarevolutiononline.com.
The original version of this case entry was written by Sarah Slasor, M.A., McMaster University.