level of violent crime remained high, with 368 murders registered
during the year. The conviction rate for murders, including alleged
killings by state agents, remained low. The Director of Public
Prosecutions and the country's chief magistrate both admitted that
intimidation of witnesses was having a severe negative impact on
criminal judicial proceedings. In November the Law Association of
Trinidad and Tobago expressed its alarm at what it described as the
virtual collapse of the criminal justice system, and called for a new
witness protection programme and improved forensic investigations.
Unlawful state killings and impunity
were further reports of unlawful killings by state agents, and a
pattern of impunity continued for such killings. In March, Dave
Burnett, a police constable, was convicted for the January 2004 murder
of Kevin Cato, the first time since the country's independence in 1962
that a police officer had been convicted of a murder committed while on
duty. Despite this, there was reportedly little progress in the
investigations into 37 other cases of alleged killings by state agents
committed since September 2003, and intimidation of witnesses was
• In November, Kevon
Sween was shot dead by police officers who were looking for the
perpetrators of a murder committed earlier that day. Police claimed
they were fired upon first, but eyewitnesses reportedly claimed that
the victim was unarmed and had offered to surrender.
July, two prison officers were acquitted of the June 2001 murder of
Anton Cooper, a detainee in the Golden Grove remand prison. A
postmortem certificate had stated that his death was caused by
"asphyxia associated with multiple blunt traumatic injuries."
Abuses by the security forces
There were continued reports of torture and ill-treatment by members of the security forces.
August, Rabindranath Choon, a Hindu cleric's assistant, was reportedly
abducted by four police officers, seriously beaten and robbed as he
cycled home from a prayer meeting. He was held for several hours and
released without charge. The police officers were charged and released
on bail awaiting trial.
• In November,
nine inmates in Golden Grove prison in the town of Arouca were
reportedly shot with rubber bullets by members of the police anti-crime
squad who had responded to reports of a prisoner firing a weapon in the
remand section. One prisoner reportedly lost his eye in the incident
and scores of others were allegedly beaten by members of the police
anti-crime squad. Prisoners on remand at the prison had rioted in
August in protest at alleged ill-treatment by prison guards, poor
prison conditions and delays in judicial proceedings.
At at least two new death sentences were passed.
AI country reports/visits
• Trinidad and Tobago: End police immunity for unlawful killings and deaths in custody (AI Index: AMR 49/001/2006)
• Trinidad and Tobago: Death sentence for police officer convicted of murder (AI Index: AMR 49/002/2006)