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At year’s end, a pretrial hearing began in the case of former cabinet minister Danrajh Singh, charged for the 1999 murder of politician Hanraj Sumairsingh, and the trial was set for 2003. Despite public speculation about possible political motives for the murder, there were indications that corruption may have been the root of the incident.
On August 27, police arrested three prison guards in connection with the June 2001 death of prisoner Anton Cooper. The circumstances surrounding the death, and the slow pace of the investigation, provoked widespread criticism. At year’s end, the three guards were charged with murder, and a preliminary inquiry was underway in Magistrate’s Court.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The Constitution prohibits such practices; however, there were credible reports of police and prison personnel abusing prisoners in incidents that involved beating, pushing, and verbal insults. An Amnesty International report stated that use of excessive force and ill treatment of prisoners and suspects by police and guards continued. The Commissioner of Police admitted that there were frequent citizen allegations of police brutality, but he asserted that such claims often were “counter-claims” by citizens who had been arrested for crimes.
In June Sudesh Samaroo claimed that police officers beat him, abducted him from his home, taunted him, and threw him from a cliff before he managed to escape. The Police Complaints Authority opened an investigation into the charges, and the investigation continued at year’s end.
In September prison authorities opened an investigation into claims by death row inmate Damian Ramiah that he had been severely beaten by prison officers on July 30.
In November Keyon Anthony charged that police officers severely beat him during a search for an illegal firearm; he never was charged with a crime. Anthony brought his allegations to the Police Complaints Authority.
Police corruption continued to be a problem. An independent body, the Police Complaints Authority, received complaints about the conduct of any police officer, monitored the investigation of complaints, and determined disciplinary measures where appropriate, including dismissal. However, Public Service Commission restrictions limited oversight authority to impose final discipline through dismissals. Several citizens’ complaints alleging police corruption were lodged during the year. For example, in June residents of the town of Los Bajos appealed to the Commissioner of Police to protect them from three “rogue” police officers who allegedly made a practice of planting drugs on young men in order to arrest them. In December Allan Saran confessed to involvement in the kidnaping for ransom of a Port of Spain resident (subsequently freed) and identified two police officers as accomplices.
Pretrial detainees were held separately from convicted prisoners, although they could be in the remand section of the same facilities as convicted prisoners.
Conditions at the women’s prison generally met international standards. Children between the ages of 15 and 19 were held at the Youth Training Center. Younger children were sent to the Boy’s Industrial School.
The Government permitted prison visits by independent human rights observers, but the Ministry of National Security must approve each visit.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile.
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, and the Government generally observed this prohibition.
A police officer may arrest a person either based on a warrant issued or authorized by a magistrate or without a warrant when the officer witnesses commission of the alleged offense. For less serious offenses, the authorities typically brought the accused before a magistrate by way of a summons, requiring the accused to appear within 48 hours, at which time the accused could enter a plea. For more serious offenses, when the accused was brought before the court, the magistrate proceeded with a preliminary inquiry or, alternatively, committed the accused to prison on remand or allowed the accused to post bail until the inquiry. In practice, serious offenders also were charged within 48 hours following arrest.
The court could and did customarily grant bail to any person charged with any offense other than murder, treason, piracy, hijacking, or for any other offense for which death was the penalty fixed by law. In cases in which bail was refused, magistrates advised the accused of their right to an attorney and, with few exceptions, allowed them access to an attorney once they were in custody and prior to any interrogation. Police had the authority, under the Summary Courts Act, to grant bail to individuals charged with summary offenses. In July a Princes Town magistrate criticized police for applying this bail policy inconsistently, granting bail in some cases and refusing it in others.
In February the Government launched Operation Anaconda, a police action which promised to address the problem of crime through a new zero-tolerance policy. Press reports indicated the program had led to the arrests of more than 500 people by June. That month laborer Andy Anderson Ashby brought suit against the Attorney General alleging that he had been arrested in connection with an Operation Anaconda exercise and detained for almost 36 hours without being charged. At year’s end, the Police Complaints Authority was still investigating Ashby’s claim.
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