IALS Library Collections: Grenada Military Coup of 1983

IALS Display Cabinets

The October 1983 Grenada Military Coup and Aftermath

On October 1983 the Grenadian Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, backed by the Grenadian Army, led a military coup against the Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Bishop and seven others were executed and the Coard regime placed the island under martial law. A Military Council was formed and remained in power until 25th October when combined military forces from the United States and other regional powers invaded Grenada in an operation codenamed Operation Urgent Fury. The US stated this was done at the behest of Prime Minister Eugenia Charles of Dominica, whilst the Governor-General of Grenada, Sir Paul Scoon, later stated that he had also requested the invasion.

Immediate Reaction to the US Invasion

The US invasion was highly criticised at the time by the governments of Britain, Trinidad and Togago and Canada. In addition the United Nations General Assembly condemned the invasion as "a flagrant violation of international law" by a vote of 108 in favour to 9 against, with 27 abstentions. The United Nations Security Council considered a similar resolution which failed to pass when vetoed by the United States.


After the US invasion, Sir Paul Scoon invoked Emergency Powers Regulations to govern the island for a short time and an interim administration was created. Democratic elections took place in late 1984.

The Grenada military coup and US invasion have been used by legal theorists in academic debates regarding the legitimacy of government. Some view it as an example of the Doctrine of Necessity whilst others see it as an example of Kelsen's Theory of Revolutionary Legality.

Display Cabinet 1:  Legislation and Articles

This cabinet included an example of a pre-military coup law enacted by the government of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop in 1982 and the post-military coup Statutory Order which brought into force the provisions of the Emergency Powers Act on 1st November 1983. 

IALS Grenada exhibition cabinet 1

Display Cabinet 2:  Commentary on the Coup

This cabinet included several articles and books on the 1983 Grenadian military coup and its use by legal theorists in the subsequent academic debate on the legitimacy of government. It also includes Dr Lawrence Joseph's PhD thesis.

IALS Grenada exhibition cabinet 2


Profile of Dr Lawrence Joseph 

Dr Lawrence Joseph graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1970 with a BSc in Economics. In 1974 he travelled to London where he studied at the Inns of Court School of Law and qualified as a Barrister at Law of Lincoln’s Inn in 1977. After his return to Grenada in 1978 he became engaged in private practice and was selected as a Magistrate, a position which he held for five years up to 1984. He was elected as President of the Senate from 1984 to 1988 and in that position acted as Governor-General on a number of occasions. Senator Joseph, as he then was, became a Cabinet Minister holding several portfolios including that of Attorney General, Minister for Legal Affairs, and Minister for Education and Labour. He was Speaker of the House of Representatives in Grenada, 2003-2008, and in 2013 was again elected as President of the Grenada Senate. Having studied for two years as an external student of the University of London, Dr Joseph obtained an LLM in Criminology and Criminal Justice in 2006. He gained a Certificate in Legislative Drafting in 2009 and successfully defended his PhD thesis in public law in 2012, both at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at SAS. His thesis is based on the extra-constitutional adjudication dilemma which confronted the Grenada Court of Appeal judges during the trial of a number of revolutionaries who were accused of murdering the then ‘revolutionary’ Prime Minister Maurice Bishop during a counter coup d’etat in 1983. Dr Joseph asserts that the judges correctly adopted the Doctrine of Necessity instead of Kelsen’s Theory of Revolutionary Legality, which seemed to have been the one of natural selection in the 1980s. Dr. Joseph is presently based in Grenada but engages in fruitful ‘conversations’ with the general public by publishing weekly articles in the media on a wide range of topics involving governance and institutional development. In 2013 he published Aspects of Governance and Institutional Development in Grenada, a collection of newspaper articles from the previous 12 months and in 2014 on a similar basis, he published Discussions on Governance, Social Issues and the Legal System in Grenada. Dr Joseph has been recently re-elected as Vice-President of the Grenada Bar Association.

Page last updated: 23rd August 2018