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) 37/28 per 1,000
Adult literacy 98.7 per cent
At least 39 people were killed by police, some in circumstances suggesting that the killings may have been unlawful. At least 11 people were sentenced to death; there were no executions.
In January the government tabled a working document on constitutional reform before Parliament. Proposed changes included replacing the UK-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice as the country’s highest court, and the creation of a Ministry of Justice.
Police and security forces
At least 39 people were killed by police. Eyewitness testimonies and other evidence indicated that some of these killings may have been unlawful.
- In January, 52-year-old George Ashby was fatally shot three times in the chest by police as he was returning from work to his home near Rio Claro. Police claimed that when they stopped his car they were shot at and returned fire. His family believed it was a case of mistaken identity. His killing led to a three-day protest by local residents. A police investigation was continuing at the end of the year.
- In August, 19-year-old Tyrone Peters was found dead in his cell at the police station in La Horquetta, Arima. The first autopsy substantiated police claims that he had hanged himself; officers claimed he had used his jeans to commit suicide. However, his family claimed he was fully clothed when they saw his body in the cell. A second autopsy, requested by the family, reportedly found that he had died as a result of being throttled. Investigations were continuing at the end of the year.
Violence against women and children
In October the Leader of Government Business in the Senate announced that there had been a four-fold increase in deaths as a result of domestic violence between 2004 and 2008 and a 60 per cent increase in complaints of domestic violence over the same period. Women’s organizations acknowledged that the rise in the number of complaints may have been linked to improved police responses to reports, but noted that the government needed to do more to support survivors of domestic violence, including increasing the number of shelters.
At least 11 people were sentenced to death; no executions took place.
In July the authorities moved to execute Ronald Tiwarie, despite the fact that his appeal was pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. His case was deferred after his lawyers filed a constitutional motion to the High Court; the motion was pending at the end of 2009. Ronald Tiwarie remained on death row at the end of the year, despite the fact that in August his death sentence became eligible for commutation under a 1993 ruling of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which deemed that more than five years under sentence of death would constitute inhuman and degrading treatment.
Amnesty International report
Trinidad and Tobago: First execution in 10 years threatened (24 July 2009)