TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Head of state: George Maxwell Richards
Head of government: Patrick Manning
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: ratified
The level of violent crime remained high, with 368 murders registered during the year. The conviction rate for murders, including alleged killings by state agents, remained low. The Director of Public Prosecutions and the country's chief magistrate both admitted that intimidation of witnesses was having a severe negative impact on criminal judicial proceedings. In November the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago expressed its alarm at what it described as the virtual collapse of the criminal justice system, and called for a new witness protection programme and improved forensic investigations.
Unlawful state killings and impunity
There were further reports of unlawful killings by state agents, and a pattern of impunity continued for such killings. In March, Dave Burnett, a police constable, was convicted for the January 2004 murder of Kevin Cato, the first time since the country's independence in 1962 that a police officer had been convicted of a murder committed while on duty. Despite this, there was reportedly little progress in the investigations into 37 other cases of alleged killings by state agents committed since September 2003, and intimidation of witnesses was widely reported.
• In November, Kevon Sween was shot dead by police officers who were looking for the perpetrators of a murder committed earlier that day. Police claimed they were fired upon first, but eyewitnesses reportedly claimed that the victim was unarmed and had offered to surrender.
• In July, two prison officers were acquitted of the June 2001 murder of Anton Cooper, a detainee in the Golden Grove remand prison. A postmortem certificate had stated that his death was caused by "asphyxia associated with multiple blunt traumatic injuries."
Abuses by the security forces
There were continued reports of torture and ill-treatment by members of the security forces.
• In August, Rabindranath Choon, a Hindu cleric's assistant, was reportedly abducted by four police officers, seriously beaten and robbed as he cycled home from a prayer meeting. He was held for several hours and released without charge. The police officers were charged and released on bail awaiting trial.
• In November, nine inmates in Golden Grove prison in the town of Arouca were reportedly shot with rubber bullets by members of the police anti-crime squad who had responded to reports of a prisoner firing a weapon in the remand section. One prisoner reportedly lost his eye in the incident and scores of others were allegedly beaten by members of the police anti-crime squad. Prisoners on remand at the prison had rioted in August in protest at alleged ill-treatment by prison guards, poor prison conditions and delays in judicial proceedings.
At at least two new death sentences were passed.
AI country reports/visits
• Trinidad and Tobago: End police immunity for unlawful killings and deaths in custody (AI Index: AMR 49/001/2006)
• Trinidad and Tobago: Death sentence for police officer convicted of murder (AI Index: AMR 49/002/2006)