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Department Seal


DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994

                   TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

Trinidad and Tobago, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, 
is a parliamentary democracy in which political and civil 
rights are provided for by the Constitution and generally 
respected in practice.  Free and fair general elections have 
been held at regular intervals since independence from the 
United Kingdom in 1962.  The country is governed by a bicameral 
Parliament and a Prime Minister, who is the leader of the 
majority party in the lower house.  The President, whose office 
is largely ceremonial, is elected by Parliament.  Local matters 
on the island of Tobago are handled by a 12-member elected 
House of Assembly.

The police service and the defense force are under the control 
of and generally responsive to civilian authority embodied in 
the Ministry of National Security.  An independent body, the 
Police Service Commission, controls all personnel decisions in 
the police service, and the Ministry has little direct ability 
to effect changes in senior positions.  A Scotland Yard team 
found evidence of widespread corruption in the police service.  
Some members of the police service were responsible for 
extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses, usually 
committed with impunity.

The country's mixed economy is based primarily on the 
hydrocarbon sector, but efforts continued to diversify the 
economy into agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism.  The 
Government historically owned many businesses wholly or partly, 
but an extensive divestment program gained momentum during the 
year.  Several state-owned corporations were partially or 
completely privatized, and the Government contemplated further 
divestment, particularly in the energy sector and public 

Trinidad and Tobago citizens have and exercise a wide range of 
freedoms and individual rights, but there continued to be 
incidents of extrajudicial killings, beatings, intimidation, 
and other abuses by the police.  There were no investigations 
nor any other followup by Government, and the perpetrators of 
such abuse enjoyed impunity.  The administration of justice 
suffered from police corruption, allegations of favoritism, and 
prolonged delays.  Violence against women remained a severe 
problem, unaddressed by the Government.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killings

There were no reports during 1993 of killings for political 
motives by the Government or opposition groups.  However, there 
were extrajudicial killings and other abuses of authority by 
the police.  The police service did not publicly release 
statistics on police shootings, but the local press reported 
over a dozen shooting incidents involving police officers, 
approximately half of which resulted in fatalities.  In several 
of these cases, the victims were unarmed.  The law requires a 
public coroner's inquest in a case of death by unnatural causes 
only when a coroner finds the circumstances warrant it; 
otherwise it is not mandatory.  In practice, inquests were 
seldom pursued.  Despite the existence of a police Internal 
Investigations Unit, there are no mandatory investigations of 
police shootings or killings.  

In September officers of the narcotics unit shot and killed 
Alim Mohammed and Zainool Bushrooram during a marijuana 
eradication raid in central Trinidad.  The officers claimed 
they were fired upon and the two men were killed in the ensuing 
battle.  Weapons were recovered at the scene.  Eyewitnesses, 
however, asserted that the dead men were unarmed and that the 
initial shots were fired by individuals who then fled the 
scene.  There was no inquest into this shooting.

There were no reports of deaths resulting from abuse by 
officers of persons in police custody, but an alleged drug 
trafficker died in the custody of Coast Guard personnel.  
Although his cause of death was listed as a ruptured spleen, 
there was credible evidence that the injury resulted from a 
severe beating administered during a Coast Guard interrogation.
There was no further investigation of the circumstances.

A Scotland Yard probe uncovered evidence of corrupt activities 
by individual police officers, including collusion with 
narcotics traffickers and drug dealers.  It failed, however, to 
uncover evidence to support the allegation that there was a 
drug cartel operating within the police services.  The 
investigation was abruptly halted in June.  The Ministry of 
National Security stated that the next stage of the 
investigation would be handled by selected local officers, but 
no local followup investigation took place.

In the case of a police constable shot to death during a 1987 
training exercise in which only blank ammunition was to have 
been used, the victim's mother alleged that her daughter 
witnessed a shadowy transaction involving two government 
ministers and a high-ranking police officer the day before.   
After an inquest that lasted nearly 5 years, the chief 
magistrate referred the case back to the police Internal 
Investigations Unit.  The Scotland Yard probe reportedly 
uncovered new evidence that may lead to a criminal trial.  

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances 
in 1993.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution forbids the Government from imposing or 
authorizing cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.  Under 
law, any evidence obtained by such means is inadmissible in 

However, there continued to be credible allegations and charges 
in court that some police officers had physically abused 
detainees.  The law permits victims of such treatment to sue 
for civil damages and to file criminal charges against the 
police officers involved; such suits are occasionally 
initiated.  Damages can be awarded and police officers found 
guilty of misconduct are subject to disciplinary action.  There 
were credible reports, however, that citizens who lodged 
complaints against police officers were subjected to reprisals.

In two separate incidents, American citizens lodged complaints 
against police officers alleging that they were verbally abused 
and intimidated by the officers.  There were also numerous 
press reports of police intimidation and abuse of suspected 
criminals and some members of the general public.  Disciplinary 
actions were rarely pursued based on these allegations.

An American citizen prisoner in a Trinidadian jail was 
reportedly beaten by several prison officers after minor 
transgressions.  This report prompted questions in Parliament, 
and the prison service conducted an internal investigation into 
the matter.  Several prison officers received official 

Trinidad and Tobago courts sentence convicted felons to 
corporal punishment as well as prison sentences in 
approximately 50 cases a year.  Men convicted of rape, assault 
with a deadly weapon, or aggravated robbery are subject to 
floggings administered in private by prison officials.  The law 
states that flogging must be administered within 9 months of 
sentencing but cannot be conducted while an appeal is pending; 
since appeals are routinely filed but rarely heard within 
9 months of initial sentencing, in practice floggings seldom 

In 1993 there was one reported flogging of a minor.  The 
individual, an 11-year-old boy, had been apprehended making a 
delivery of over 200 rocks of crack cocaine.  The magistrate 
ordered the boy to be flogged as punishment, and the sentence 
was carried out a few days later.  The flogging was condemned 
by local human rights organizations and prompted considerable 
media attention.

Overcrowding in prisons continued to be a problem, with, in 
some cases, 11 to 13 men in a 6- by 9-foot cell.  Several 
prisoners died of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), 
while others suffered from contagious skin diseases.  
Construction is under way on a new maximum security facility 
which will accommodate 2,000 inmates and help alleviate the 

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution specifies that a suspect has the right to be 
informed promptly of the reason for arrest or detention, which 
in practice has normally meant within 48 hours.  Court orders 
may be obtained by the police to hold a person longer than 
normal in order to gather additional evidence.  However, there 
continued to be credible reports that persons were detained 
incommunicado in excess of this period, without the police 
having obtained a court order.  Arrests without a warrant are 
permitted when a person is apprehended committing an offense or 
when reasonable suspicion exists that an offense has been or is 
about to be committed.  A 1991 court ruling held that police 
must allow a person in police custody to contact an attorney 
"as early as possible, and in any event before an interrogation 
takes place."

Detainees generally are allowed access to a lawyer and to 
family members, but police sometimes deny access if they 
believe it would impede an investigation.  There continued to 
be charges in the courts and the press that police violated 
these procedures in specific cases.  Persons arrested have the 
right to a judicial determination of the legality of their 
detention, and courts have found for complainants in some cases 
of illegal detention and awarded damages.

The Government is appealing a June 1992 decision that upheld 
the amnesty that resolved the 1990 coup attempt by the Jamaat 
al-Muslimeen.  Based on this decision, the courts had ruled 
that the detention of 114 Jamaat members was illegal and 
ordered the Government to pay damages and court costs.  

The Minister of National Security may authorize preventive 
detention in order to prevent actions prejudicial to public 
safety, public order, or the defense of Trinidad and Tobago and 
must state the grounds for the detention.  A detainee under 
this provision has access to counsel and may have his detention 
reviewed by a three-member tribunal established by the Chief 
Justice and chaired by an attorney.  The Minister must provide 
to the tribunal the grounds for the detention within 7 days of 
the detainee's request for review, which shall be held "as soon 
as reasonably practicable" following receipt of the grounds.  
The preventive detention option is not known to have been 

Exile is forbidden by law and not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution specifies that persons accused of crimes 
receive a fair and public trial.  The judiciary is independent 
and not subject to outside interference.  Appeals may be made 
to the court of appeals and eventually to the Judicial 
Committee of the Privy Council in London.  Criminal defendants 
enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right to confront 
witnesses and present evidence.  These rights are generally 
respected in practice.  All criminal defendants have the right 
to an attorney.  Legal assistance is available from attorneys 
registered with the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority of the 
Ministry of Social Development and Family Services for those 
who prove that they cannot afford representation.  Judges may 
also appoint attorneys in the courtroom to represent defendants 
without counsel.

Criminal defendants may be freed on bail pending trial unless 
charged with murder or treason or detained under state of 
emergency regulations.  The presiding magistrate may suspend 
bail after consultation with the prosecution and defense.

Due to inadequate resources and the current structure of the 
judicial system, both criminal and civil cases are often 
delayed, sometimes for as long as 6 years.  All criminal trials 
are preceded by a preliminary inquiry which determines whether 
there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a jury trial.  
Strict rules of evidence and the requirement that all witnesses 
who will testify during the trial give testimony before the 
inquiry add further delays to the process.

Certain serious offenses, and all appeals, are tried before a 
high court, which suffers from a shortage of judges and a large 
backlog of cases.  Some defendants spend many months or even 
years in jail awaiting their actual trial.  

There are no political prisoners in Trinidad and Tobago.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution prohibits such interference, a prohibition 
generally respected in practice.  However, although judicially 
issued warrants are required for searches (except under state 
of emergency regulations), this procedure is not strictly 
followed.  The state-owned telephone company has the ability to 
monitor telephone calls, and informed observers believe that 
the police use this facility for domestic intelligence purposes.
There are no laws authorizing such monitoring, however, so 
evidence obtained in this manner may not be used in court.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression, and this 
right is protected in practice by the independent judiciary, a 
democratic and pluralistic political system, and independent 
and privately owned media.

According to some journalists, the interlocking directorates of 
local corporations result in self-censorship by publishers.  
They also argue that Trinidad's strict libel laws, based on 
preindependence British models, are prone to unpredictable and 
excessive damage awards and constitute de facto censorship.  In 
December 1993, Minister of Planning Lenny Saith filed a libel 
suit against a local daily for articles it printed delving into 
his personal financial dealings.  The newspaper retracted parts 
of the stories.  The threat of libel suits limits the scope of 
much investigative reporting.

The two major daily newspapers are sometimes critical of the 
Government in their editorials.  Their news coverage appears to 
report accurately criticism by opposition parties, trade 
unions, and private citizens.  The widely read tabloids are 
extremely critical of the Government.

The three television stations, as part of their licensing 
agreements, are required to broadcast informational programming 
produced and provided by the Government.   The Government-owned 
station has, over the years, been accused by the opposition of 
favoring the ruling party.  There are currently seven radio 
stations operating in Trinidad and Tobago, one of which is 

The import or circulation of publications may be prohibited 
under the Sedition Act, but the law has rarely been invoked in 
recent years.  A Board of Film Censors is authorized to ban 
films it considers to be against public order and decency or 
contrary to the public interest.  This includes films which may 
be controversial in matters of religion, seditious propaganda, 
or race.

Academic freedom is respected and protected by law.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

These freedoms are protected by law and respected in practice.  
Registration of private organizations is not required.  Permits 
are required in advance for street marches, demonstrations, or 
other public outdoor meetings and are routinely granted.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The right to practice one's religion is provided for by the 
Constitution and is respected in practice.  There is no state 
religion and no religious test for public office.  There are 
large groups of Christians, Hindus, and Muslims, and these and 
other religious groups are allowed to maintain association with 
organizations and persons in other countries and to perform 
religious travel.  Religious groups are generally free to 
establish places to worship and to engage in religious 
training, education, and publishing.  Missionaries are 
permitted to enter the country and proselytize.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Residents are generally free to emigrate and to travel within 
or outside the country, as well as to change residence and 

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The citizens of Trinidad and Tobago choose their government by 
secret ballot in free and fair multiparty, multicandidate 
elections held, as required by the Constitution, at intervals 
not to exceed 5 years.  Elections for the 12-member Tobago 
House of Assembly are held every 4 years.  The Constitution 
extends the right to vote to citizens as well as to legal 
residents with citizenship in other Commonwealth countries, who 
are at least 18 years of age.  There are no restrictions on the 
participation of women in political activities.  Women hold 
many positions in the Government and political party leadership.

The Government is formed by the party holding the majority of 
seats in the lower house of Parliament.  The Parliament 
consists of an elected House of Representatives, whose 36 
members represent individual voting constituencies; and a 
31-member Senate appointed by the President, 16 on the advice 
of the Prime Minister, 6 on the advice of the leader of the 
opposition, and 9 at the President's discretion.  The Prime 
Minister is Head of Government; the President, elected by 
Parliament, is Head of State, a largely ceremonial position.

Prior to December 1986, each election had been won by the 
People's National Movement (PNM); in December 1991, the PNM was 
voted back into office after a 5-year hiatus.  The opposition 
United National Congress won 13 of the 36 parliamentary seats, 
the highest proportion it has ever held.  Elections for the 
Tobago House of Assembly were held in December 1992, and 11 of 
the 12 seats were won by the National Alliance for 
Reconstruction (NAR), the party that ruled the country between 
1986 and 1991.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

A number of nongovernmental human rights groups operate freely 
without government restriction or interference.  Caribbean 
Elections Watch, founded in 1990, promotes free and fair 
elections in the Caribbean.  The Caribbean Institute of Human 
Rights, headquartered in Trinidad, is a regional organization 
composed of human rights monitors who collect information 
throughout the region and report on Caribbean human rights 
matters.  The Ombudsman is an officer of Parliament empowered 
to investigate complaints of violations of human rights law or 
policy and to report his findings to Parliament.

International human rights organizations are free to visit and 
discuss human rights with governmental and nongovernmental 

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, 
language, or social status, and the Government respects these 


Discrimination based on sex is illegal.  Many women hold 
positions in business and the professions, as well as in 
government and political parties.  Women's groups speak out 
publicly on all aspects of public life.  Women make up 
approximately 36 percent of the paid labor force.  Collective 
bargaining agreements cannot be registered with the Industrial 
Court if they exhibit wage disparities between men and women.

Physical abuse of women and children by family members was 
reported to be extensive.  Parliament passed a domestic 
violence bill in August 1991 which provided for the filing of 
restraining orders against abusive family members, a court 
hearing within 7 days of filing, and criminal penalties for 
violation of restraining orders.  Additional legislation will 
be required, however, to ensure that adequate mechanisms are in 
place to enforce the bill.  There are several privately 
operated shelters for battered women which receive a minimal 
amount of government assistance.


The Government is committed to assuring the human rights and 
welfare of children.  Protection of children from abuse in the 
home is provided by the Domestic Violence Act.  Public 
assistance legislation provides supplemental income to 
unemployed and indigent parents based on the number of 
children.  In practice, however, if parents do not have the 
funds to buy books and uniforms, their children do not attend 
school.  There is no evidence of abuse of children by any 
government agencies, nor are there any societal practices that 
violate children's human rights.  The Government's commitment 
to children's welfare is limited only by the scarcity of 
available resources.

     National/Ethnic/Racial Minorities

Trinidad and Tobago includes various ethnic and religious 
groups that live together peacefully, generally respecting each 
other's beliefs and practices.  However, racial tensions 
continue between Afro-Trinidadians and Indo-Trinidadians, with 
each group comprising over 40 percent of the population.  The 
private sector is dominated by Indo-Trinidadians and people of 
European and Middle Eastern descent.  Indo-Trinidadians also 
predominate in agriculture.  Afro-Trinidadians are employed in 
disproportionate numbers in the civil service, police, and 
military.  Since Indo-Trinidadians constitute the majority in 
rural areas and Afro-Trinidadians are the majority in urban 
areas, competition between town and country for public goods 
and services often takes on racial overtones.  Indo-Trinidadian 
opposition politicians complained that Afro-Trinidadians 
receive a disproportionate share of government benefits.

Against the backdrop of a perceived crime wave in central 
Trinidad, in May Member of Parliament Hulsie Bhaggan publicly 
linked the increased crime, particularly sexual offenses, to 
racial animosity against Indo-Trinidadians on the part of 
Afro-Trinidadians.  Ms. Bhaggan's allegations, and the 
subsequent police denial, heightened racial tensions for 
several months and provoked the organization of vigilante 
village watch groups throughout the region.  These groups were 
responsible for several assaults against Afro-Trinidadian males 
whom they suspected of banditry.  In almost all cases, these 
suspicions proved groundless.  In July the psychological 
research center at the University of the West Indies released a 
report of the crime situation that found no connection between 
increased crime in the area and racial motivations.

     Religious Minorities

Although Hinduism is the second largest religion in Trinidad 
and Tobago, there are no sixth-form Hindu secondary schools to 
prepare students for university; there are 18 Christian and 
2 Muslim sixth-form facilities.  Hindu leaders blame the lag in 
the performance of Hindu students on government failure to 
provide adequate facilities and opportunities for the Hindu 
population.  Members of the Muslim community also charged 
religious discrimination in non-Muslim government secondary 
schools which prohibit young women from wearing the jeelab 
(head covering) or chador (head covering and shawl) in the 
classroom.  School administrators responded that all students 
are required to wear identical uniforms and that preferential 
treatment contradicted school policy.

     People with Disabilities

There is no legislation that specifically protects the 
employment rights of the disabled, but there exists a body of 
social services legislation that affords pensions and public 
assistance for disabled persons unable to find employment.  The 
Government provides substantial funding for private schools and 
institutions that provide education, child care, and support 
for disabled children and young adults.  The Government has not 
enacted legislation to assure accessibility for the disabled to 
government services.  The Government released a draft policy in 
the fall of 1993 listing proposed improvements to the existing 
policy toward the disabled.  The draft was still under 
discussion at year's end.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The right of association is respected in law and practice.  
There are 32 active labor unions, with a total membership 
comprising approximately 32 percent of the work force.  The 
unions are independent of government or political party 
control, and they freely represent their members' interests.  
Union members are free to publicize their views and determine 
their own programs and policies, including their international 

Workers are permitted, upon expiration of a conciliation 
period, to strike, and employers are permitted to lock workers 
out.  After a strike or lockout has been in progress for 
3 months, either of the parties involved may request the 
Minister of Labor to refer the question to the Industrial 
Court, which is part of the independent judiciary, for a 
binding decision.  Strikes and lockouts are not permitted in 
essential public services (as defined in the Industrial 
Relations Act), and the Minister of Labor may apply for an 
injunction to halt any labor action he finds contrary to the 
national interest; in practice, this has never happened.  
Workers in essential services with labor grievances may call on 
the conciliation services of the Ministry of Labor or may take 
their cases directly to the Industrial Court.  However, such 
cases are not generally processed more quickly than those in 
the private sector.  Workers in essential services may also 
file civil suits against the Government.

In 1993 members of the Steelworkers' Union staged a 6-week 
strike against the island's only steel manufacturer.  The 
strike concluded in August when the majority of the membership 
voted to accept the company's offer.

The PNM Government's decision to proceed aggressively with 
plans to privatize many state-owned industries led to marked 
antagonism between several significant unions and the 
Government.  Both the Oilfield Workers Trade Union and the 
National Union of Government and Federal Workers repeatedly 
threatened crippling industrial action in efforts to avert the 
planned privatization of the electrical and water utilities.  A 
government decision to streamline Trinidad's ports resulted in 
dismissal of two-thirds of the port's workers, who were 
provided with a voluntary separation plan.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The constitutional right of workers to organize and bargain 
collectively is well established and freely practiced.  In 
fact, collective bargaining is the predominant method by which 
wage levels are established in most industries.  Antiunion 
discrimination is prohibited by law.  However, there is no 
legislation that mandates the rehiring of an employee in a 
wrongful dismissal case.  The Minister of Labor acts as an 
impartial conciliator in collective bargaining impasses.  There 
are a few complaints each year to the Ministry of Labor about 
personal antiunion activities, usually involving the suspension 
or dismissal of an employee who alleges the action was taken at 
least in part because of union activity.  The Ministry of Labor 
is generally able to resolve those cases brought to it.  

Legislation for the establishment of free trade zones, enacted 
by Parliament in 1988, was implemented in 1992.  All Trinidad 
and Tobago laws, inclusive of those affecting working 
conditions and the right of workers to organize and bargain 
collectively, are applicable in free trade zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Although there is no domestic law prohibiting forced or 
compulsory labor, it is not practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Legislation prohibits the employment of children under the age 
of 12, and children aged 12 to 14 are permitted to work only in 
family businesses.  Education is compulsory until the age of 
12.  Children may begin apprenticeship at age 15 and regular 
employment at age 17.  The probation service within the 
Ministry of Social Development and Family Services is the 
entity responsible for compliance, but enforcement of these 
restrictions was lax.  School-age children were often seen 
vending on the streets and at the beach.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Legislation enacted in November 1991 significantly broadened 
the categories of workers covered by minimum wage standards.  
There is no national minimum wage, but there do exist 
legislated minimum wages for specific sectors.  The lowest such 
rate is that for domestics which is $26.78 (TT$150) for a 
44-hour week.  Very few sectors are covered by these rates, and 
it appears that even in sectors where there is a legislated 
minimum, most workers earn more than the minimum.  The lowest 
pay rate for government workers covers apprentice woodsmen and 
is $12.74 (TT$71.35) for an 8-hour day.  

Enforcement of the minimum wage law is entrusted to the Labor 
Inspectorate.  The legislation also provides for 3 months 
maternity leave for household and shop assistants, as well as 
overtime pay, holiday pay, 2 weeks' vacation leave, and 
14 days' sick leave per year.  Wage levels in sectors not 
covered in the law are set under collective bargaining 
agreements and provide a decent living for workers and their 
families.  The most poorly paid workers, including those 
working in minimum wage jobs, usually have secondary sources of 
support, often from their families.

The standard workweek in Trinidad and Tobago is 40 hours; the 
minimum wage law sets a 40-hour workweek for workers who fall 
within its jurisdiction, while collective bargaining agreements 
set the standards in other industrial and service sectors.  
Additional hours are considered overtime and are remunerated at 
a negotiated rate.  Daily rest periods and paid annual leave 
form part of most employment agreements.  There are no legal 
restrictions on overtime work.

Occupational health and safety is governed by the 1948 
Factories and Ordinance Bill, which sets requirements for 
health and safety standards in certain industries and provides 
for inspections to monitor and enforce compliance.  Workers who 
file complaints with the Ministry of Labor regarding illegal or 
hazardous working conditions are protected under the Industrial 
Relations Act of 1972 to the extent that, should it be 
determined upon inspection that conditions exist in the 
workplace which present hazards to life or limb, the worker is 
absolved in refusing to comply with an order which would have 
placed him or her in harm's way.  Government inspectors 
investigate complaints of hazardous working conditions.

[end of document]


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