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When the December 2001 elections produced an 18-18 balance in Parliament between the United National Congress (UNC) and People’s National Movement (PNM), both parties agreed to allow President A.N.R. Robinson to designate the new Prime Minister. However, when the President selected the PNM’s Patrick Manning, the UNC refused to abide by the decision, and the deadlocked Parliament was unable to pass legislation or elect a speaker for 9 months, until new elections on October 7 yielded a 20 to 16 working majority for Manning and the PNM. A 12-member elected House of Assembly handled local matters on the island of Tobago. The judiciary was generally independent.
The Ministry of National Security oversaw the police service and the defense force, rendering them responsive to civilian authority. An independent body, the Police Service Commission, made all personnel decisions in the Police Service, and the Ministry had little direct influence over changes in senior positions. There were credible reports that police and prison guards committed some human rights abuses.
Oil and natural gas production and related downstream petrochemical industries, including ammonia and methanol production, provided the base for the market-based economy. The country’s population was approximately 1.3 million. The service sector was the largest employer, although industrialization and associated plant construction created many jobs in the construction industry. Agriculture, while contributing only 4 percent to gross domestic product, remained an important employer, both at the subsistence and commercial level. Unemployment, at a reported 11 percent, contributed to a skewed income distribution. The economic growth rate was approximately 2.7 percent during the year.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the law and judiciary provided effective means of dealing with individual instances of abuse. Nonetheless, there were reports of police and guard abuse of prisoners. Poor prison conditions and significant violence against women remained problems. Trinidad and Tobago was invited by the Community of Democracies’ (CD) Convening Group to attend the November 2002 second CD Ministerial Meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea, as a participant.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary and Unlawful Deprivation of Life.
There were no reports of the arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life committed by the Government or its agents.
At year’s end, a pretrial hearing began in the case of former cabinet minister Danrajh Singh, charged for the 1999 murder of politician Hanraj Sumairsingh, and the trial was set for 2003. Despite public speculation about possible political motives for the murder, there were indications that corruption may have been the root of the incident.
On August 27, police arrested three prison guards in connection with the June 2001 death of prisoner Anton Cooper. The circumstances surrounding the death, and the slow pace of the investigation, provoked widespread criticism. At year’s end, the three guards were charged with murder, and a preliminary inquiry was underway in Magistrate’s Court.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The Constitution prohibits such practices; however, there were credible reports of police and prison personnel abusing prisoners in incidents that involved beating, pushing, and verbal insults. An Amnesty International report stated that use of excessive force and ill treatment of prisoners and suspects by police and guards continued. The Commissioner of Police admitted that there were frequent citizen allegations of police brutality, but he asserted that such claims often were “counter-claims” by citizens who had been arrested for crimes.
In June Sudesh Samaroo claimed that police officers beat him, abducted him from his home, taunted him, and threw him from a cliff before he managed to escape. The Police Complaints Authority opened an investigation into the charges, and the investigation continued at year’s end.
In September prison authorities opened an investigation into claims by death row inmate Damian Ramiah that he had been severely beaten by prison officers on July 30.
In November Keyon Anthony charged that police officers severely beat him during a search for an illegal firearm; he never was charged with a crime. Anthony brought his allegations to the Police Complaints Authority.
Police corruption continued to be a problem. An independent body, the Police Complaints Authority, received complaints about the conduct of any police officer, monitored the investigation of complaints, and determined disciplinary measures where appropriate, including dismissal. However, Public Service Commission restrictions limited oversight authority to impose final discipline through dismissals. Several citizens’ complaints alleging police corruption were lodged during the year. For example, in June residents of the town of Los Bajos appealed to the Commissioner of Police to protect them from three “rogue” police officers who allegedly made a practice of planting drugs on young men in order to arrest them. In December Allan Saran confessed to involvement in the kidnaping for ransom of a Port of Spain resident (subsequently freed) and identified two police officers as accomplices.
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