US report finds human rights, corruption and police impunity among areas of concern in TT

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US report finds human rights, corruption and police impunity among areas of concern in TT

This country’s human rights procedures have been slapped with yet another negative assessment from the United States.

The US State Department’s 2022 Country Report on Human Right’s Practices for T&T, has pointed to police impunity, the treatment of asylum seekers, corruption and trafficking of persons as areas of major concern.

In its section on T&T, the report found: “The Government took steps to identify, investigate, prosecute and punish officials who committed human rights abuses or corruption, but impunity persisted due to open-ended investigations and the generally slow pace of criminal judicial proceedings.”

The report found that “rape and domestic violence were serious and pervasive problems” but despite the establishment of a Victim and Witness Support Unit within the T&T Police Service, victims still complained that officers trivialised reports of abuse and rape, especially if the victim and the perpetrator are married to each other. The report also found that courts “often imposed considerably shorter sentences in cases of spousal rape.”

The report highlighted the shooting death of PC Clarence Gilkes in April last year and the treatment of Jehlano Romney, who was initially named as the primary suspect before the investigation fingered police officers for the shooting death of their colleague.

It also looked at the shooting death of Fabien Richards, Leonardo Niko Williams and Isaiah Roberts in July of 2022 by police in Port-of-Spain. The men’s families had proclaimed their innocence and the autopsy found that all had been shot from behind.

The 2021 deaths of Joel Balcon and Andrew Morris while in police custody were also highlighted. Balcon and Morris had been arrested for the kidnapping and murder of Andrea Bharatt in 2021.

While both the Police Complaints Authority and the Professional Standards Bureau were acknowledged as investigating these incidents, the report noted that all remain unresolved by the criminal justice system.

The report also found: “Credible reports of opaque public procurement processes and public service contracts with known gang leaders were a concern. Statutes governing conflicts of interest were rarely enforced, making nepotism and corruption commonplace. There were credible reports of government ministries and public companies manipulating or bypassing established procurement procedures to favour specific vendors unfairly.”

The general state of the prisons were found to be wanting, with the report singling out the minimal improvement in the women’s facilities.