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Amnesty International Report 2008 - Trinidad & Tobago

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2008
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2008 - Trinidad & Tobago, 28 May 2008, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Head of State: George Maxwell Richards
Head of government: Patrick Manning
Death penalty: retentionist
Population: 1.3 million
Life expectancy: 69.2 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 20/16 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 98.4 per cent

There were further reports of abuses by the police. Impunity continued in cases of alleged killings by police. Death sentences continued to be imposed, but there were no executions.


In November, the ruling People's National Movement was re-elected. Predicted widespread political violence at election time did not materialize.

Despite receiving an official communication requesting access to Trinidad and Tobago, the authorities did not invite the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to visit the country.

There were a reported 388 homicides during the year, a record high.

Police and security forces

A Parliamentary Joint Select Committee issued a report in July which was highly critical of the police service. The report highlighted the persistent failure by police officers to appear in court as complainants or witnesses, leading to many cases being dismissed. The report noted a disturbingly high number of disciplinary charges against officers and the need to combat the increased levels of indiscipline within the police service. The report also spoke of a "serious lack of accountability from top to bottom" in the force.


Several people were killed by the police. In most cases the police claimed that the victims had been killed in a "shoot-out". These claims were disputed by witnesses. Those responsible for such killings were rarely brought to justice; only 6 per cent of cases of killings by the police had gone to trial since 1999.

  • On 17 August, four men and a woman were killed by police in the town of Wallerfield. The four men were travelling in the same car when they were shot. Wendy Courtney, a mother of five, was reportedly hit by a stray bullet in her bedroom. The police officers claimed that the men opened fire when they stopped the car to search it. A police investigation was reportedly continuing at the end of the year.
  • Sheldon Des Vignes was shot dead by police on 9 November after he reportedly came to the aid of his cousin who was being questioned by police officers in Laventille. The police reportedly claimed that a man who accompanied Sheldon Des Vignes had shot at them forcing them to return fire. A police officer was charged with his murder at the end of December.

Justice system

The Justice Protection Programme to protect witnesses was widely criticized, with many witnesses reportedly declining to give evidence at the last moment because of threats.

  • A 17-year-old state witness, Ishmael Sobers, was fatally shot in the head by armed men near his house in the St James neighbourhood of the capital Port-of-Spain in September. He had been due to testify against two men charged with a murder committed in September 2005.

Death penalty

Several people were sentenced to death during the year. In May, the Prime Minister stated publicly that he wanted hangings resumed in Trinidad and Tobago as he believed "capital punishment is an essential element in crime fighting". In November, Trinidad and Tobago voted against the UN resolution calling for a global moratorium on the death penalty.

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