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TITLE:  TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995










                      TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO


Trinidad and Tobago, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, 
is a parliamentary democracy in which there have been free and 
fair general elections since independence from the United 
Kingdom in 1962.  A bicameral Parliament and a Prime Minister 
govern the country.  Parliament elects the President, whose 
office is largely ceremonial.  A 12-member elected House of 
Assembly handles local matters on the island of Tobago.

The Ministry of National Security controls the police service 
and the defense force, which are both generally responsive to 
civilian authority.  An independent body, the Police Service 
Commission, makes all personnel decisions in the police 
service, and the Ministry has little direct influence over 
changes in senior positions.  Some members of the police 
service allegedly committed human rights abuses, often with 
impunity.

The country's mixed economy is based primarily on the petroleum 
and natural gas industries, but efforts continue to diversify 
the economy into services, manufacturing, and tourism.  The 
Government has historically owned many businesses wholly or 
partially; however, a major divestment program continued to 
privatize several state-owned corporations, either partially or 
completely.

Citizens enjoy a wide range of civil liberties and individual 
rights.  Human rights abuses included overcrowded prisons, 
violence against women, and allegations of beatings and 
extrajudicial killings by police.  Sharply increased violent 
crime and narcotics trafficking created unprecedented strains 
on the administration of justice system, which was severely 
undermined by murder and intimidation of witnesses, allegations 
of corruption, and excessive delays.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated killings by the 
police or other security forces.

Police shot and killed approximately 11 people during 1994.  
All allegedly occurred during exchanges of gunfire, with the 
police acting in self-defense, and none was determined to be 
extrajudicial killings.  The authorities' inquest into the 
death of a man shot by the police in 1990 was still under way 
at the end of 1994.  The inquest heard evidence that the post 
mortem report appeared to have been altered before submission 
to the coroner.

There were several alleged suicides of prisoners while in 
police custody.  In one case, when a 34-year-old man died from 
drinking herbicide while handcuffed in his jail cell, family 
members charged it was a "cover" for an extrajudicial police 
killing.  They asserted that the police had forced the deceased 
to drink the poison.  No inquest had been held on the matter by 
year's end, and the inquest may be delayed for several years 
because magistrates hold such inquests on an ad hoc basis.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

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

The Constitution prohibits the imposition of cruel or unusual 
treatment or punishment.  However, allegations of beating while 
in police custody were common.  For example, one prisoner 
accused jailers of beating him in custody pending trial and 
appeared at a court hearing with his jaws wired shut and 
showing evidence of other injuries.  He stated that he had not 
complained to prison authorities for fear of being forced to 
miss his court date.  The authorities conducted an internal 
investigation but closed it when the accused prison officers 
denied any involvement.  Other prisoners complained of beatings 
by prison guards, but the authorities took no action to 
investigate the complaints or punish the perpetrators.  By law 
the government Ombudsman may investigate charges of prisoner 
beatings, but in practice he does not.

Courts frequently order the flogging of prisoners, but this is 
not actually carried out in practice.  The relevant statute 
requires that the punishment be carried out within 6 months of 
sentencing; defendants appeal all flogging sentences, and 
courts do not hear the appeals before the 6-month deadline.

Overcrowding is a serious problem in prisons which, together 
with shortages of guards and unsanitary conditions, leads to 
serious social and health consequences.  Conditions are worst 
in the older facilities:  Port of Spain prison was built to 
hold 250 inmates, but houses 1,079; Carrera prison, designed to 
hold 185, has 547.  There were many reports of rapes, murders, 
assaults, and attempts to commit these crimes among inmates and 
between inmates and guards.  Diseases such as chicken pox, 
tuberculosis, AIDS, and other viruses spread easily in the 
prisons.  A large, modern detention facility is scheduled to 
open in March 1995.

The facilities for, and treatment of, women prisoners appear 
exceptionally humane, with a strong and successful orientation 
to rehabilitation.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary detention, imprisonment, 
or exile of any person.  A police officer may arrest a person 
either based on a warrant issued or authorized by a magistrate 
or without a warrant when the officer witnesses commission of 
the alleged offense.  In less serious offenses, the authorities 
typically bring the accused before a magistrate within 24 
hours; for indictable offenses, the accused must appear within 
48 hours.  At that time the magistrate reads the charge and 
determines the availability of bail.  (A recently enacted bail 
bill authorizes magistrates to deny bail to violent and repeat 
offenders.)  If for some reason the accused does not come 
before the magistrate, the case comes up on the magistrate's 
docket every 8 to 10 days until a hearing date is set.  The 
courts notify persons of their right to an attorney and allow 
them access to an attorney once they are in custody and prior 
to any interrogation.  The authorities do not always comply 
with these standards, however, and a court awarded $18,000 to 
three brothers whom police wrongfully arrested, detained for 
3hdays, threatened with beatings, and failed to advise of their 
right to an attorney.

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 
the tribunal with 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.  There have been no reports that the authorities 
abused this procedure.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides the right to a fair public trial for 
persons charged with criminal offenses.  It also provides for 
presumption of innocence, reasonable bail, fair and public 
hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, and an 
interpreter for non-English speakers.  The authorities 
generally respected these rights in practice.  Appeals may be 
made to the national court of appeals and then to the Privy 
Council in London.  All criminal defendants have the right to 
an attorney.  In practice, the courts appoint an attorney for 
those persons charged with indictable offenses (serious crimes) 
if they do not retain one on their own behalf.  The law 
requires a person accused of murder to have an attorney.  An 
indigent person may refuse to accept an assigned attorney for 
cause and obtain a replacement.  In spite of these provisions, 
however, there were several allegations by prisoners charged 
with narcotics trafficking offenses that the authorities did 
not provide them with attorneys even after they specifically 
requested counsel.

Despite the constitutional provisions outlined above, the 
administration of justice system has been seriously undermined 
by murder, intimidation, corruption, and excessive delays.  A 
remarkable number of witnesses and potential witnesses (mostly 
in narcotics-related cases) were killed, or disappeared, 
emigrated, or otherwise failed to cooperate with the 
prosecution.  In most of these instances, the authorities 
dropped charges against the accused as a result of the absence 
of key witnesses.  The murders highlighted the Government's 
inability to protect prospective witnesses, undermining public 
confidence in the justice system's ability to provide a fair 
public trial to all defendants.  The most significant test case 
is the proceeding against one of the reputed major narcotics 
figures in the country, who has been charged with murder.  
Witness protection has been successful through the preliminary 
inquiry stage of the proceeding.

Credible witnesses frequently allege bribery of police, 
magistrates, and judges in drug cases, but the authorities 
conducted no investigations.  There were also charges that drug 
traffickers bribed witnesses not to testify.  Trials often 
occur as long as 6 to 10 years after the alleged criminal act, 
when evidence may be lost, memories fade, and any deterrent 
effect is lost on the accused.  Inordinate court delays, which 
stem partially from the system itself but also from defense 
attorneys' and prosecutors' use of repeated adjournments, have 
undermined public confidence in the judicial system's ability 
to provide a fair trial.

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

The authorities generally respected in practice the 
constitutional provisions for the rights to security of the 
person, enjoyment of property, and respect for private and 
family life.  Police must obtain search warrants to enter 
private property.  There were occasional reports of search 
warrants or drug raids executed on the wrong houses, but 
persons injured in this manner have redress through a civil 
action for damages.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution recognizes these freedoms and an independent 
judiciary, a democratic and pluralistic political system, and 
independent and privately owned media protect these rights in 
practice.

The two major daily newspapers sometimes criticize the 
Government in their editorials; the widely read tabloids are 
extremely critical of the Government.  Licensing agreements 
require the three television stations to broadcast a certain 
amount of informational programming produced and provided by 
the Government.  The opposition has, over the years, accused 
the government-owned station of favoring the ruling party.  
There are seven radio stations, one of which is government 
owned.

The Government may prohibit the import or circulation of 
publications under the Sedition Act, but the authorities have 
rarely invoked it 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 it believes may be controversial in matters of 
religion, seditious propaganda, or race.

The law protects academic freedom, and the authorities respect 
it.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution recognizes the rights of freedom of 
association and assembly, and the Government respects them in 
practice.  Registration or other governmental permission to 
form private associations is not required.  The police 
routinely grant the required advance permits for street 
marches, demonstrations, or other public outdoor meetings.  
Political activity by trade associations or professional bodies 
is not restricted, and these organizations affiliate freely 
with recognized international bodies in their fields.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of conscience and 
religious belief, and the authorities respect these rights in 
practice.

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

The Constitution recognizes freedom of movement as a 
fundamental human right, and the authorities respect it in 
practice.  Residents are free to emigrate, return, and travel 
within or outside the country, as well as to change residence 
and workplace.  Although Trinidad and Tobago is not a party to 
any U.N. convention or protocol on refugees, there were no 
reports of forced expulsion of those having a valid claim to 
refugee status.  There is no provision for persons to claim or 
be classified as refugees or asylum seekers; any such cases are 
handled on a case-by-case basis by the Ministry of National 
Security's Immigration Division.

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

Citizens choose their government by secret ballot in free and 
fair multiparty elections held 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.

Prime Minister Patrick Manning's People's National Movement 
(PNM) holds the majority of seats in the 36-member lower house 
of Parliament.  The President appoints a 31-member Senate, 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 ruling PNM is primarily but not exclusively 
Afro-Trinidadian; the opposition United National Congress party 
is primarily but not exclusively Indo-Trinidadian.  The 
fundamentalist Muslim "Jamaat al Muslimeen", which attempted a 
coup in 1990, organized a New Vision political party and 
contested a local election in 1994.

There are no specific laws that restrict women or minorities 
from participating in government or the political parties, and 
women hold many positions in the Government and political party 
leadership.  There are 14 female Members of Parliament, 4 of 
whom are ministers, and the head of a newly formed opposition 
party is a female Member of Parliament.

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

Several nongovernmental human rights groups operate freely 
without government restriction or interference.  A law 
established the office of the Ombudsman, which receives 
complaints relating to government administrative issues and 
investigates complaints of human rights abuse; it can make 
recommendations but does not have authority to force any 
government offices to take action.

Regional and local human rights groups focused on a Privy 
Council ruling on a Jamaican case in 1993, which commuted  
death sentences for 56 inmates who had been on death row for 
5 years or more in Trinidad.  The Trinidad authorities hanged 
Glen Ashby, a condemned murderer, in July less than 1 week 
before the 5-year cut-off date.  Based on the Jamaican case, 
Ashby's attorneys had filed additional appeals to the Privy 
Council challenging the State's intention to carry out the 
execution as unconstitutional.  Prison officials hanged Ashby 
only minutes before the Privy Council's decision to stay the 
execution reached Trinidad from London.

Human rights monitors alleged that Ashby's hanging was illegal 
because all appeal rights had not been exhausted.  Legal and 
human rights groups held a "public commission of inquiry" in 
Barbados 1 month after the hanging, but Trinidad officials 
refused to participate on the grounds that such a commission 
had no authority in a domestic legal matter.  As a result of 
the Ashby case, the Prime Minister's blue ribbon anticrime 
committee recommended that appeals of death sentences be 
limited to the national court of appeals, eliminating the Privy 
Council as the court of final decision on such motions.

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

The Government respects in practice the constitutional 
provisions of fundamental human rights and freedoms to all 
without discrimination based on race, origin, color, religion 
or sex.

     Women

Many women hold positions in business, the professions, and 
government, but men tend to hold the most senior positions.  
There is no law or regulation requiring equal pay for equal 
work.

Physical abuse of women continued to be an extensive problem.  
Domestic violence resulted in the deaths of 15 women, in some 
cases despite the existence of a protection order.  There are 
several shelters for battered women, and a rape crisis center 
offers counseling for rape victims and perpetrators on a 
voluntary basis.  In 1994, 68 rape victims and 48 battered 
wives (new cases) came in voluntarily for counseling.  Law 
enforcement officials and the courts are generally not 
sensitive to family violence problems.  There were repeated 
reports of officers refusing to take women's complaints of 
domestic violence.  More than 300 women filed for protection 
orders under the Domestic Violence Act, and some courts decided 
to stop hearing protection order cases because they were too 
time-consuming.

The Division of Women's Affairs in the Ministry of Community 
Development and Culture is charged with protecting women's 
rights in all aspects of government and legislation.  The 
Division received funding for four positions in 1994 and 
established an agenda with the following priorities:  access to 
credit, employment, domestic violence, and sexual harassment in 
the workplace.

     Children

The Government's ability to protect children's welfare is 
limited by a lack of funding and expanding social needs.  The 
public school system seriously fails to meet the needs of the 
school age population, due to overcrowding, substandard 
physical facilities, and classroom violence from gangs.  There 
is no pattern of social abuse directed against children.  The 
Domestic Violence Act provides protection for children abused 
at home.  Abused children are usually placed with relatives if 
they are removed from the home; if there is no relative who can 
take them, there are two Government institutions and several 
nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) which take children.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Various ethnic and religious groups 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 find employment in disproportionate numbers 
in the civil service, police, and military.  Some 
Indo-Trinidadians assert that they are excluded from equal 
representation in the civil service due to racial 
discrimination.  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.

A very small group in the population identifies itself as 
descendants of the original native American population of the 
island.  They maintain social ties with each other and other 
aboriginal groups.

     Religious Minorities

Some groups charged the authorities with religious 
discrimination over the question of the extent to which female 
students should be allowed to alter the standard school 
uniforms of the partially state-funded, denominational schools 
by wearing the Muslim hijab.  In prior years, denominational 
school boards had accommodated the question of the hijab by 
allowing students to wear a head covering in addition to the 
regulation uniform.  Negotiations between denominational school 
boards and representatives of Islamic groups were unsuccessful 
in working out a compromise solution for the 1994-95 school 
year.  The Trinidad and Tobago courts will have to decide:  
What is a hijab, whether it is a bona fide religious 
requirement, and what accommodation in the school uniform, if 
any, will be required.  More fundamentally, public discussion 
of this issue led to calls for broad reexamination of the 
"concordat"--the 1960 agreement by which denominational schools 
receive public funding for accepting students from public 
elementary schools--and of church-state relations in general.  
The Government stated that the concordat will not be reopened 
or revised for the time being.

     People with Disabilities

There is no legislation which specifically enumerates or 
protects the rights of disabled persons, nor which mandates the 
provision of access to buildings or services.  Nonaccessibility 
of transportation, buildings, and sidewalks is a major obstacle 
to the disabled; only two vans in the country are equipped with 
hydraulic lifts.  The Government does provide some public 
assistance and partial funding to a variety of NGO's which, in 
turn, provide direct services to disabled members or clients.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The law provides that all workers, including those in state- 
owned enterprises, may form or join unions of their own 
choosing without prior authorization.  Union membership has 
been decreasing, with 26 unions still functioning, but many 
doing so with a fraction of their membership from former 
years.  Most unions are independent of the Government or 
political party control, although the Sugar Workers' Union is 
historically allied with the current opposition party.

The law prohibits antiunion activities before a union is 
legally registered, and the Ministry of Labor enforces this 
provision when it receives a complaint, or a union may bring a 
request for enforcement to the Industrial Court.  All employees 
except those in "essential services" (basically government 
employees, including police) have the right to strike.  There 
were no major strikes, but a number of work stoppages lasted 
several days.  The Labor Relations Act prohibits retribution 
against strikers and provides for grievance procedures if any 
is alleged.  A special section of the Industrial Court handles 
mandatory arbitration cases.  Arbitration agreements are 
enforceable and appealable only to the Industrial Court.

Unions freely join federations and affiliate with international 
bodies.  There are no restrictions on international travel or 
contacts.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Industrial Relations Act of 1972 establishes the right of 
workers to collective bargaining.  The Ministry of Labor 
conciliation service maintains statistical information 
regarding the number of workers covered by collective 
bargaining agreements and the number of antiunion complaints 
filed.  The Industrial Court may order employers found guilty 
of antiunion discrimination to reinstate the worker, pay 
compensation, or can impose other penalties including prison.  
When necessary, the conciliation service also determines which 
unions should have senior status.

There are several newly organized export processing zones 
(EPZ's) in Trinidad and Tobago.  The same labor laws apply in 
the EPZ's as in the country at large.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law does not explicitly prohibit forced or compulsory 
labor, but there were no reports that it was practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum legal age for workers is 12 years.  Children from 
12 to 14 years of age may only work in family businesses.  
Children under age 18 may legally work only during daylight, 
with the exception of 16- to 18-year-olds, who may work nights 
in sugar factories.  The Probation Service in the Ministry of 
Social Development and Family Services is responsible for 
enforcing child labor provisions, but its enforcement is lax.  
There is no organized exploitation of child labor, but children 
can be seen vending and begging, and some are used by criminals 
as guards and couriers.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage; the Government has set 
minimum wages for 53 job categories in 5 nonunionized 
occupational groupings.  The minimum pay ranges from $26 per 
week (TT$130.45) to $57 per week (TT$285).  These rates were 
supposed to be adjusted for cost-of-living increases at regular 
intervals, but Parliament has never considered any adjustment 
since passing the laws.   The Ministry of Labor enforces the 
minimum wage regulations.  A minimum wage income is not 
sufficient to support an individual, but most workers earn more 
than the minimum.

The standard workweek is 40 hours.  There are no restrictions 
on overtime work.  Daily rest periods and paid annual leave 
form part of most employment agreements.  For those sectors 
covered, the minimum wage laws provide holiday pay, 2 weeks' 
vacation, and 14 days' sick leave per year.

The 1948 Factories and Ordinance bill sets requirements for 
health and safety standards in certain industries and provides 
for inspections to monitor and enforce compliance.  The 
Industrial Relations Act of 1972 protects workers who file 
complaints with the Ministry of Labor regarding illegal or 
hazardous working conditions 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.

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[end of document]

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