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Sunday, 18 September 2011

State of Emergency: Citizen Rights

Q: With all the incidents of Military and Police abuse of powers during the SoE, what are our rights as citizens?

A: I recently heard a story from my friend and his wife who were held at Chaguanas Police Station (the most corrupt police station in Trinidad and Tobago) for being outside after the curfew. The car shut down close to curfew time, but as responsible adults, instead of waiting to be arrested, they locked their car and walked to the station to procure a permit, but they were greeted with hostility as the Officers saw an opportunity to flex their muscles.

While there, they observed the officers getting ready to go out on patrol around 10:45pm and they were very excited at the prospect of being able to assault, arrest, or possibly take bribes from members of the public who were unfortunate enough to still be outside. The Officers were making comments like, "Licks go pass tonight"and "I sure we locking up plenty man tonight". The same officers who have sworn to protect and serve the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago with pride.

Anyway, I have disgressed and I apologise. To answer your question, I found some very useful information on the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force's website:

What is the extent of the powers of the Military in a State of Emergency?
The President acting in accordance with Section 7 of the Constitution has issued the Emergency Powers Regulations 2011. The main legal authority for members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force is contained in Regulation 22 (1) which states that the Commissioner of Police may request assistance from the Chief of Defence Staff during this SoE and where such a request for assistance has been exercised under Reg. 22 (1) all members of the Force acting under the directions of the Chief of Defence Staff ‘shall have the powers of a police officer’ for the duration of the SoE by virtue of Reg. 22(2). The powers of members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force under these Regulations include:

Reg. 10 -power to stop and search for firearms.

Reg. 15- -power to enter and search any premises; power to stop and search any vessel (Coast Guard), vehicle and person.

Reg. 16-power to arrest and detain person(s): TTDF member must have reason to suspect a person(s) is acting or is about to act in a manner prejudicial to public safety and security; use of force must be reasonably and necessary and their shall be no detention of person(s) in excess of 24hrs (extension allowed up to seven (7) days under authority of a Magistrate or Assistant Superintendent).

Reg. 18- any female persons subject to a search must be search by another female TTDF

Reg. 21 - imposes an obligation on drivers of any motor vehicle to stop when instructed to do so by a TTDF member.

Which rights of citizens are normally affected during a state of emergency?
All derogable rights and freedoms enshrined under Sections 4 and 5 of the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution such as the freedom of movement and freedom of association and assembly under S. 4(g) and (j) are curtailed and /or suspended in a material respect.

What mechanisms are in place to treat with any allegations of misconduct or breaches of the powers that the members of the Defence Force now possess?

The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force has a two (2) tier system of military justice which is provided for under the Defence Act Chapter 14:01 Laws of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Tier 1 provides Summary mechanisms deals with less serious of minor breaches of service discipline which is normally adjudicated over by an Officer in Command (OC) or a Commanding Officer (CO) both of whom exercise jurisdiction similar to that of a Magistrate in the Magistrates’ Courts. The main aim of the disciplinary process in Tier 1 is to expeditious treat with the offender and returns him/her to his respective Unit in order to not disrupt the Operational Effectiveness of that Unit.

Tier 2 provides for trial by Court-Martial which resembles the High Court Criminal Court. Access to this Tier is based on an election by the alleged offender or based on a recommendation by the Commanding Officer based on the serious nature of the offence. At Tier 2 the offender is entitled to have a Defending Officer as well as his own civilian Legal Counsel at the trial which is adjudicated over by a civilian Judge Advocate and the members will normally comprise Commissioned Officers. The punishment imposed is quite severe and can result in discharge and/or imprisonment.
The Military Justice System at Tier 2 allows for the exercise jurisdiction over any person subject to military law who commits a civil offence under Section 78 of the Defence Act Chapter 14:01.

Now that you know your rights, ensure that you aren't taken advantage of by rogue Officers in our protectvive services. The other issue is getting any accusations to stick because it will be a citizen's word against theirs.

Important case:
The case of Lawless v. Ireland (1957-61) was the first international court decision, interpreting and applying international human rights law, and the first dispute between an individual and a State to be tried by an international tribunal.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Human Trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago

After watching the video for my favourite song for Carnival 2K12, Shurwayne Winchester's "Wine", I am disappointed that he saw the need to use the serious issue of trafficking in his video intro, albeit in jest. And on top of that, the Trinidad and Tobago flag seen at 0:42 is UPSIDE DOWN! Seriously, Shurwayne?

Anyway, because there are ZERO laws on human trafficking in a country that is seen as a transit point from South America, I am going to copy the latest report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNCHR):

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago (Tier 2)

Trinidad and Tobago is a destination, source, and transit country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and adults subjected to forced labor. Some women and girls from South America and the Dominican Republic are subjected to sex trafficking in Trinbagonian brothels and clubs. Trinbagonian teenagers enticed into providing sex acts for shelter or material goods by local men are a high risk group for sex trafficking. Economic migrants from the region and from Asia may be vulnerable to forced labor. Some companies operating in Trinidad and Tobago reportedly hold the passports of foreign employees, a common indicator of human trafficking, until departure. Trafficking victims from Trinidad and Tobago have in the past been identified in the United Kingdom and the United States. As a hub for regional travel, Trinidad and Tobago also is a potential transit point for trafficking victims traveling to Caribbean and South American destinations.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated some progress during the reporting period, most notably by formalizing and implementing victim identification procedures, training numerous officials, and identifying more potential victims. Legislation that would criminalize all forms of human trafficking and provide extensive protections to trafficking victims was introduced to parliament in April 2011. The absence of such legislation and related policies or laws on victim protection, however, limited the government's ability to prosecute trafficking offenders and provide comprehensive assistance for trafficking victims during the reporting period.

Recommendations for Trinidad and Tobago:

Enact draft legislation that prohibits all forms of human trafficking and includes victim protection measures; encourage victims' assistance in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenses, including by offering legal alternatives to foreign victims' removal to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship and by ensuring that identified victims are not inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and sentence trafficking offenders; implement a national public awareness campaign in multiple languages that addresses all forms of trafficking, including forced domestic service and other forms of forced labor.


The government made limited progress in its prosecution and punishment of sex and labor trafficking offenders during the reporting period. The lack of comprehensive legislation that would make human trafficking a crime and would ensure protection of trafficking victims was a significant limitation in the government's ability to prosecute trafficking offenders and address human trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago. Nevertheless, the government's anti-trafficking task force, which was established in November 2009, drafted comprehensive legislation during the year that reportedly criminalizes all forms of trafficking and provides for victim protection; the legislation progressed to final stages of executive branch review before introduction to Parliament. Debate on the legislation began on April 8, 2011. The government claimed to have investigated trafficking offences during the reporting period, but did not provide the number of investigations, nor did it provide data on any prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of trafficking offenders or any officials guilty of trafficking complicity under any statute. In partnership with IOM, the government co-funded a series of trainings for over 100 government officials, including police, immigration authorities, school guidance counselors, and labor inspectors, in responding to human trafficking.


The government made progress in victim protection during the reporting period. It reportedly identified at least two potential sex trafficking victims during the reporting period; this is an improvement over the lack of any victims identified during the previous year. An NGO reportedly identified at least five additional sex trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government's trafficking task force developed a formal system to identify trafficking victims, which officials used on an ad hoc basis between June and October 2010 and then consistently since October. It is now part of the standard operating procedure for all brothel raids. The Ministry of Labor reported it has hired translators to assist during labor inspections at job sites where there are Chinese laborers to better screen for unfair labor practices and human trafficking. During the reporting period, the government provided shelter and protection for at least one victim. The government offered human trafficking victims some social services directly and through NGOs that received government funding, but there was no specific budget dedicated toward trafficking victim protection.

Trinbagonian authorities encouraged crime victims in general to assist with the investigation and prosecution of offenders, though without legislation prohibiting human trafficking or providing formal protections for trafficking victims, few incentives existed for trafficking victims to assist in practice. During the reporting period, at least five victims reportedly were detained for immigration violations and deported.


The government made some progress in the prevention of human trafficking during the reporting period. On occasion throughout 2010, both the newly elected prime minister and the new minister of national security spoke out publicly to raise awareness about human trafficking. An NGO that received government funding launched a human trafficking awareness day in March 2011 that involved a national teaching campaign for NGOs, government officials, and the general public, and explicitly addressed the demand for commercial sex acts. The government anti-trafficking task force included four NGO members, met monthly throughout the reporting period, and made final recommendations to the cabinet in October 2010 regarding legislative reform, government training, and public awareness. The government has no formal system for monitoring its anti-trafficking efforts. The government has dedicated a number for a future trafficking hotline, but the number is not yet functional. NGOs that operate existing hotlines with government funding for child abuse and domestic violence have participated in trafficking awareness training. Authorities did not consider child sex tourism to be a problem in Trinidad and Tobago during the reporting period and reported no cases of it identified, investigated, or prosecuted.

Can you believe that we are this backward? This report is VERY shocking. I honestly believed that we were at a more advanced stage than this. Despite this, Trinidad and Tobago has not made ANY effort to rectify the deficiencies.