Barbados

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

The constitution prohibits such practices, and there were no reports government officials employed them.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law authorizes police to arrest persons suspected of criminal activity; a warrant issued by a judge or justice of the peace based on evidence is typically required. Authorities may hold detainees without charge for up to five days, but once persons are charged, police must bring them before a court within 24 hours, or the next working day if the arrest occurred during the weekend. There was a functioning bail system. Criminal detainees receive prompt access to counsel and are advised of that right immediately after arrest. The law prohibits bail for those charged with murder, treason, or any gun-related offense that is punishable by imprisonment of 10 years or more.

Official procedures require police to question suspects and other persons only at a police station, except when expressly permitted by a senior divisional officer to do so elsewhere. An officer must visit detainees at least once every three hours to check on their condition. After a suspect has spent 48 hours in detention, the detaining authority must submit a written report to notify the deputy police commissioner and the police commissioner that the suspect is still in custody.

Pretrial Detention: Legal authorities expressed concern regarding lengthy stays in pretrial detention. Civil society representatives and media reports indicated that delays of five to seven years before cases went to trial were common, and in extreme cases detainees could wait up to 10 years before trial. On October 12, the chief justice stated that holding persons in extended pretrial detention without any indication of a trial date was inconsistent with the constitution. He announced that the superintendent of prisons would be required to submit a quarterly report of all persons being held in pretrial detention. The chief justice also said that he would prioritize cases involving murder, firearms, and sexual assault.

The Court of Appeal launched a new, automated, court case management system in September to replace the existing paper-based system, with the goal of improving the judiciary’s operating efficiency and reducing case backlog.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Costa Rica

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right for any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires issuance of judicial warrants before police may make an arrest, except where probable cause is evident to the arresting officer. The law entitles a detainee to a judicial determination of the legality of detention during arraignment before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. The law provides for the right to post bail and prompt access to an attorney and family members. Authorities generally observed these rights. Indigent persons have access to a public attorney at government expense. Those without sufficient personal funds are also able to use the services of a public defender. With judicial authorization, authorities may hold a suspect incommunicado for 48 hours after arrest or, under special circumstances, for up to 10 days. Special circumstances include cases in which pretrial detention previously was ordered and there is reason to believe a suspect may reach an agreement with accomplices or may obstruct the investigation. Suspects were allowed access to attorneys immediately before submitting statements before a judge. Authorities promptly informed suspects of any offenses under investigation. Habeas corpus provides legal protection for citizens against threats from police; it also requires judges to give a clear explanation of the legal basis for detention of and evidence against a suspect.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. According to the Ministry of Justice, as of July persons in pretrial detention constituted approximately 13 percent of the prison population, compared with 20 percent in 2020. The average length of pretrial detention was 90 to 180 days. In some cases delays were due to pending criminal investigations and lengthy legal procedures. In other cases the delays were a result of court backlogs. The length of pretrial detention generally did not equal or exceed the maximum sentence for the alleged crime. The law establishes that preventive detention should be proportional to the sentence for the alleged crime, and authorities generally complied with that mandate.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Dominican Republic

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were several reports that government agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. Extrajudicial killings of civilians by officers of the National Police were a problem. According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a nongovernmental organization (NGO), more than 4,000 individuals died during confrontations with police or security forces between 2010 and April 2021. As of October police killed a total of 41 persons, according to the Attorney General’s Office, but the exact number of extrajudicial killings was unknown. Media and civil society acknowledged that many cases went unreported due to a lack of faith in the justice system to pursue charges.

In one of the most high-profile cases of the year, in March police killed Joel Diaz and Elizabeth Munoz under unclear circumstances when Diaz and Munoz were returning home after a church event. According to local media, the officers “confused” the couple’s vehicle for the vehicle of wanted criminals and shot at the couple’s vehicle while in pursuit. In April the Public Ministry (the ministry responsible for the formulation and implementation of the country’s policy against crime, for the conduct of criminal investigations, and for public prosecution) ordered that all seven police officers involved in the shooting be arrested and put in pretrial detention.

On October 2, an off-duty police officer shot and killed Leslie Rosado after Rosado allegedly hit the officer’s motorcycle and left the scene. The officer was assisted by a second officer, who helped him chase Rosado’s vehicle. The Santo Domingo Este Prosecutor’s Office requested the courts place the two police officers in pretrial detention and requested three months to complete the investigation. President Luis Abinader attended Rosado’s funeral service, called her killing “an intolerable act of savagery,” and promised to eradicate similar police abuse through police reform.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

Although the law prohibits torture, beating, and physical abuse, there were reports that security force members, primarily police, carried out such practices.

In April relatives of a young man in La Vega, the fourth largest city, reported to news outlets that the young man was beaten by police officers and left outside a convenience store. As of year’s end, authorities reported they had investigated the incident, but no further information on their conclusions or steps taken was available.

Impunity was a problem within certain units of the security forces, particularly the National Police. The government worked to address issues related to impunity through training programs for police officers, including specialized courses on human rights included as part of their continuing education courses. On April 6, President Abinader created a special commission on police reform, scheduled to be effective for one year. On October 17, the president replaced the director and deputy director of the National Police. The president announced other reform initiatives, including limits on the use of force, improved training and performance evaluation mechanisms, an increase in the salaries for officers, and funding to allow for the immediate purchase of body cameras and car cameras to ensure all actions by police are recorded.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her detention in court. The government generally observed this requirement, but arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported. The constitution prohibits detention without a warrant unless authorities apprehend a suspect during the commission of a crime or in other special circumstances. The law permits detention without charges for up to 48 hours. In many instances authorities detained, fingerprinted, questioned, and then released detainees with little or no explanation for the detention.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law provides that an accused person may be detained for up to 48 hours without a warrant before being presented to judicial authorities. Nonetheless, there were reports of detainees who remained in police stations for long periods of time, even weeks, before being transferred to a prison. Police stations did not have adequate physical conditions or the resources, including food, to provide for detainees for an extended period.

The law permits police to apprehend without an arrest warrant any person caught in the act of committing a crime or reasonably linked to a crime, such as cases involving hot pursuit or escaped prisoners. Police often detained all suspects and witnesses to a crime. Successful habeas corpus hearings reduced abuses of the law significantly. There was a functioning bail system and a system of house arrest.

The law requires provision of counsel to indigent defendants. The NOPD provided free legal aid to those who could not afford counsel, but due to inadequate staffing, many detainees and prisoners who could not afford private counsel did not have prompt access to a lawyer. Prosecutors and judges handled interrogations of juveniles, since the law prohibits interrogation of juveniles by or in the presence of police.

Arbitrary Arrest: Police made sporadic sweeps or roundups in low-income, high-crime communities during which they arrested and detained individuals without warrants. During these operations police detained large numbers of residents and seized personal property allegedly used in criminal activity. Civil society groups claimed police were often unable to show proof or provide reasons for the detentions.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported cases of Haitian migrants and their children, as well as Dominicans of Haitian descent, being detained and deported because authorities did not permit them to retrieve immigration or citizenship documents from their residences. There were also reports of deportations of unaccompanied children and of women who left children behind. The IOM reported that due to training they provided to migration officials, the number of erroneous deportations of documented and vulnerable persons had fallen by almost 60 percent over the past four years. IOM data for January to July showed a continued reduction in erroneous deportations, but IOM officials warned that erroneous deportations had increased since July, following Haitian president Moise’s assassination and the Dominican Republic’s increased border security measures and deportations.

Civil society organization representatives said the government informally deported individuals by taking them across the border without documentation. The IOM reported that the General Directorate of Migration referred to these cases as “devolutions” or “not admitted” and that there was no due process in these operations. The IOM worked with the government to establish a system for nonadmitted persons.

Pretrial Detention: Many suspects endured long pretrial detention. A judge may order detention lasting between three and 18 months. According to the Directorate of Prisons, as of October, 59 percent of inmates in old-model prisons were in pretrial custody, compared with 62 percent of prisoners in CRCs. The average pretrial detention time was three months, but there were reports of pretrial detentions lasting more than three years, including cases involving foreign citizens. Time served in pretrial detention counted toward completing a sentence.

The failure of prison authorities to produce detainees for court hearings caused trial postponements. Many inmates had their court dates postponed due to a lack of transportation from prison to court. In other cases, lawyers, codefendants, interpreters, or witnesses did not appear or were not officially called by the court to appear. Despite protections in the law for defendants, in some cases authorities held inmates beyond the legally mandated deadlines, even when there were no formal charges against the inmates.

The law provides for an independent judiciary. In a change from past years, independent observers noted the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. The president respected the independence of the Attorney General’s Office and instructed senior officials to do the same. In addition independent observers noted the judiciary began investigating high-level cases of corruption and drug trafficking, including cases involving government allies.

Civil society and attorneys complained of the backlog of cases and what they considered undue delay in processes. Civil society and attorneys complained early in the year of virtual management of courts and hearings, but this matter became less of a concern as tribunals resumed in-person services and hearings later in the year.

The law prohibits arbitrary entry into a private residence, except when police are in hot pursuit of a suspect, a suspect is caught in the act of committing a crime, or police suspect a life is in danger. The law provides that all other entries into a private residence require an arrest or search warrant issued by a judge. Despite these limits on government authority, police conducted illegal searches and seizures, including many raids without warrants on private residences in poor neighborhoods.

Guyana

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were several reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In May police shot and killed robbery suspect Peter Headley while he was being transported by police in a civilian vehicle to a police station. According to police, Headley reached under the seat of the vehicle and pulled out what appeared to be a firearm, leading an armed police officer to shoot Headley, who died a short time later. The officers involved were placed under arrest. The Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Police Complaints Authority investigated the matter, and as of October the Department of Public Prosecutions was reviewing the results of the investigation. In September the Guyana Police Force SWAT team shot and killed Orin Boston during a search of his home. Boston was unarmed. As of November, the Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility was conducting an investigation into the incident.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

The law prohibits such practices. There were allegations that prison officials mistreated inmates.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

An arrest requires a warrant issued by a court official unless an officer who witnesses a crime believes there is good cause to suspect a crime or a breach of the peace has been or will be committed. The law stipulates that a person arrested cannot be held for more than 72 hours unless brought before a court to be charged. Authorities generally observed this requirement. Bail was generally available except in cases of capital offenses and narcotics trafficking.

Although the law provides criminal detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice and to family members, authorities occasionally did not fully respect this right.

The state provides legal counsel for indigent persons only when such persons are charged with a capital offense. The Legal Aid Clinic, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), provides legal counsel at a reduced fee in certain circumstances, as determined by the clinic. Police routinely required permission from the senior investigating officer, who was seldom on the premises, before permitting counsel access to a client.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were reports of arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention. In June the Police Complaints Authority issued its report covering 2019, which found most police officers interviewed were ignorant of constitutional provisions regarding arrests and searches and that a substantial number of members of the police force under investigation openly violated the constitution in the performance of their duties.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem, due primarily to judicial inefficiency, staff shortages, and cumbersome legal procedures. The average length of pretrial detention was three years for those awaiting trial at a magistrates’ court or in the High Court. This often exceeded the maximum possible sentence for the crime for which they were charged.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Delays and inefficiencies undermined judicial due process. Shortages of trained court personnel, postponements at the request of the defense or prosecution, occasional allegations of bribery, poor tracking of cases, and police slowness in preparing cases for trial caused delays.

The law generally prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Jamaica

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were numerous reports during the year that government security forces committed arbitrary and unlawful killings, and there were hundreds of complaints of abuse and wrongful harm. The Jamaica Constabulary Force was cited in most of the reports, in its roles both as an independent agency and as part of joint military-police activity. There were several reported incidents involving the Jamaica Defense Force. Overall, the total number of fatalities involving security forces, justifiable or otherwise, increased, with 123 reports as of December 9. Police fatally shot a taxi driver in September after he failed to obey an order to stop. A passenger was wounded in the same event, which drew significant community protests. In 2020 the government reported 115 fatal shooting incidents and 92 nonfatal shooting incidents involving security forces, an increase from the number of incidents reported in 2019.

Charges against members of the security forces took years to process, primarily due to investigatory backlogs, trial delays, and appellate measures. While the country continued to reduce the court case backlog, the COVID-19 global pandemic stymied progress in some courts. Numerous cases awaited prosecution.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

The constitution prohibits such practices, although there is no definition of torture in the law. There were allegations of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment of individuals in police custody and in correctional facilities. The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) investigated reports of alleged abuse committed by police and prison officials. Most reports to INDECOM described intimidation, excessive physical force in restraint, and restricted access to medical treatment. Representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) expressed concern regarding underreporting by victims, particularly among the vulnerable or persons with mental disabilities. Rapes were occasionally perpetrated by security forces.

INDECOM investigated actions by members of the security forces and other state agents that resulted in death, injury, or the abuse of civil rights.  As of December, INDECOM was investigating 1,002 complaints received during the year of the abuse of power by police, including wrongful deaths, assaults, and mistreatment.  INDECOM forwarded its recommendations to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which determined whether police should be charged.  INDECOM remained one of the few external and independent oversight commissions that monitored security forces.  INDECOM reported a backlog in cases due to significant delays in obtaining DNA, ballistics, and chemistry reports from other government agencies.

Cases against security forces were infrequently recommended for criminal trial and often saw substantial procedural delays. Many cases did not go to trial due to continued delays in court and plea hearings.

There were reports of unlawful arrests for which officers were not punished or disciplined. The government had procedures for investigating complaints of unlawful behavior by security forces, including investigations by INDECOM and the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Inspectorate and Professional Standards Oversight Bureau, but the government did not always use these procedures. Citizens enjoyed effective legal representation in criminal proceedings and successfully challenged unlawful arrests and detentions within the court system. Civil society organizations such as Jamaicans for Justice conducted training for police recruits in human rights protections.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention but allows arrest if there is “reasonable suspicion of [a person] having committed or … about to commit a criminal offense.” The law provides for the right of any person to challenge in court the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention, and the government generally observed these requirements. Abuses arose, however, because police regularly ignored the “reasonable suspicion” requirement, arraignment procedures were very slow, and some communities operated as zones of special operations (ZOSOs) for most of the year.

The country suffered from high levels of homicide, crime, and violence. The declaration of a state of emergency (SOE) grants the police and military the ability to search, seize, and arrest citizens without a warrant, although no SOEs were declared during the year. The prime minister may declare an SOE for 14 days or fewer; extensions require parliamentary approval. Additionally, the government may identify ZOSOs, which confer to security forces some additional detention authorities, such as are found in SOEs. During the year the prime minister declared or extended five ZOSOs, which the government viewed as necessary to reduce crime and violence. High detention rates were a concern, and arbitrary and lengthy detentions took place in ZOSOs. Very few of these detentions resulted in charges.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Police may arrest without a warrant when a felony, treason, or breach of the peace is committed or attempted in the officer’s presence. Following an arrest, the officer is required to inform the suspect of the offense(s) for which the individual was arrested.

An officer may execute a warrant that is lawfully issued by a judge or justice of the peace without being in possession of the warrant. The officer must produce the warrant as soon as practical after the arrest if the suspect requests it. The decision to charge or release must be made within 48 hours, although a judge or justice of the peace may extend the period of custody.

Security forces did not always follow these official procedures. According to government officials and civil society, public perception was that police could make arrests regardless of judicial authorization.

There were reports of arrests and prolonged periods of detention in which police did not inform the suspect of the official charges. There were multiple reports that detainees did not have access to legal counsel and that apprehended suspects could not notify family members. Every person charged with an offense is entitled to consideration for bail, although those charged with murder, treason, or other crimes punishable by imprisonment may be denied bail on “substantial grounds” that they would fail to surrender to authorities or would commit another offense while on bail. The procedure lent itself to low-level corruption in which police would accept bribes to forgo an arrest.

Arbitrary Arrest: Most cases of arbitrary detention were in the parishes (counties) of St. James and St. Catherine. The government declared ZOSOs and deployed the military to these areas to support police. Under these orders, security forces carried out wide-ranging campaigns of detention and incarceration in attempts to contain violence. There were few official investigations or prosecutions of security force members involved in arbitrary arrests.

Pretrial Detention: Lockups are intended for short-term detentions of 48 hours or less, but often the government held suspects in these facilities without charge or awaiting trial for much longer periods. A lack of administrative follow-through after an arrest created situations where persons were incarcerated without any accompanying paperwork. In some cases – days, weeks, months, or years later – authorities could not ascertain the reason for the arrest.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality. A backlog of criminal cases in most courts, however, led to the denial of a fair public trial for thousands of citizens. Criminal proceedings sometimes extended for years. Cases were delayed primarily due to incomplete files and parties, witnesses, attorneys, or investigating officers failing to appear.

The criminal courts decreased the court case backlog, especially at the parish court level. The case clearance rate for the second quarter of the year was that for every 100 cases that entered the courts, 111 were cleared.

Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the courts were unable to hold jury trials, contributing to the low murder conviction rate of 8.3 percent in the first quarter of the year. During the year courts continued their efforts to address the court case backlog by using virtual hearings, a new electronic case management system, and promoting alternative dispute resolution methods.

Although the constitution prohibits arbitrary or unlawful interference, the law gives broad powers of search and seizure to security personnel. The law allows warrantless searches of a person, vehicle, ship, or boat if a police officer has a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. On occasion police were accused of conducting searches without warrants or reasonable suspicion.

In the areas with ZOSOs and SOEs, government security forces took biometrics from temporarily detained persons. The Office of the Public Defender and civil society organizations challenged this practice, arguing that retaining the information and failing to delete it after police released the detained person effectively criminalized persons who subsequently were not charged. Security forces detained wide swaths of the population in ZOSOs and SOEs under broad arrest authorities.

Saint Lucia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

The constitution prohibits such practices, but prisoners and suspects continued to complain of physical abuse by police and prison officers.

Impunity was not a significant problem in the security forces. The government launched independent inquiries into allegations of abuse. The limited transparency into official investigations sometimes created a perception among civil society and government officials of impunity for the accused officers.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements. In April press reported that a local campaign manager for one candidate of the country’s then opposition party was detained on suspicion of organizing an illegal protest that violated national COVID-19 protocols. She was subsequently released without charge.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The constitution stipulates authorities must apprehend persons openly with warrants issued by a judicial authority. The law requires a court hearing within 72 hours of detention. Authorities allowed detainees prompt access to counsel and family. There was a functioning bail system.

Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention was a significant problem. As of October those awaiting trial represented more than 70 percent of the inmate population. Individuals charged with serious crimes often spent between six months and six years in pretrial detention. The oldest case awaiting trial dated to 2006 and was set to be heard in January 2022.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Suriname

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

On July 22, the Constitutional Court ruled that the 2012 amendment to the Amnesty Law violated the constitution and international conventions to which the country is party. Based on this ruling, the National Assembly voted on August 28 to revoke the 2012 amendment and restore the original text of the 1989 Amnesty Law. The decision and change in law effectively ended the ability of former military dictator and former democratically elected president Desire Bouterse and other convicted individuals to receive amnesty for the December 1982 murders. Subsequently, on August 30, a court-martial reaffirmed and upheld the 2019 conviction and 20-year sentence against Bouterse for the December 1982 extrajudicial killing of 15 political opponents.

In October a court convicted 14 of the 18 prison officials on trial for excessive use of force resulting in the death of prisoner Giovanni Griffith in 2019 in the Hazard Penitentiary Facility in Nickerie. All 14 convicted officials received suspended sentences of two years in prison and two years of probation. Three of the defendants in the case were acquitted due to lack of evidence, and the case against one was terminated because the defendant died during the trial.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

While the law prohibits such practices, human rights groups, defense attorneys, and media reported mistreatment by police, including unnecessary use of force during arrests and beatings of persons in detention. In May a lawyer told the press that her client was knocked to the ground and then kicked in the mouth by police officers while detained at the Keizerstraat detention facility.

Impunity was not a widespread problem within the police force. The Personnel Investigation Department investigated allegations reported by citizens against police and took appropriate disciplinary action. The Internal Affairs Unit conducted its own investigations involving various forms of misconduct. Penalties varied from reprimands to the dismissal of officers as well as prison sentences.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Police apprehended individuals openly with warrants based on sufficient evidence and brought them before an independent judiciary. The law provides that detainees should be brought before a judge within seven days to determine the legality of their arrest, and courts generally met the seven-day deadline. An assistant district attorney or a police inspector may authorize incommunicado detention. If additional time is needed to investigate a charge, a judge may extend the detention period in 30-day increments up to a total of 150 days. There is no bail system. Release pending trial depends on the type of crime committed and the judge handling the case. Detainees receive prompt access to counsel of their choosing, but the prosecutor may prohibit access if the prosecutor believes access could harm the investigation. Legal counsel is provided at no charge for indigent detainees. Detainees are allowed weekly visits from family members.

Pretrial Detention: Both the criminal and civil courts experienced multiple delays due to COVID-19, prolonging the pretrial detention of those awaiting trial in criminal court. In keeping with COVID-19 precautionary measures, the Court of Justice put in place an alternative system that allowed judges to question detainees via telephone, with their lawyers present, to meet required deadlines. In multiple cases defense attorneys successfully pleaded for their clients to be released pending trial, citing the threat of COVID-19 infection.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary.

There were 29 judges in the country, well short of the estimated 40 needed for proper functioning of the judicial system, and there was a significant backlog of cases. Cases both in criminal and civil courts were postponed repeatedly for various reasons, adding significantly to the backlog. Multiple closures of the courts due to COVID-19 infections led to additional delays in both criminal and civil procedures, extending the case backlog even further. In the civil courts, the backlog was estimated to be between five and six years.

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

The April 2020 case of the alleged attempted kidnapping of a former candidate for the National Assembly, Rodney Cairo, remained under judicial investigation. Security personnel allegedly acting on the orders of the then director of national security, Lieutenant Colonel Danielle Veira, raided Cairo’s home after Cairo criticized the then minister of defense on his Facebook page. Veira was subsequently relieved of her duties. In January Veira was officially identified as a suspect in the Cairo case, in which the pending charges were hostage taking, complicity to hostage taking, incitement to hostage taking, armed robbery, and complicity to armed robbery.

Trinidad and Tobago

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were credible reports that police committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

On January 31, members of the police’s Special Operations Response Team (SORT), a specialized subunit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service comprising police and members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force, arrested four suspects in connection with the kidnapping and killing of Andrea Bharatt.

One suspect, Andrew Morris, was allegedly beaten by the SORT team in front of family members before being taken to SORT headquarters and later to a SORT training facility in Wallerfield for interrogation. Morris died on February 1 at Arima Hospital. Police did not report the death until February 3. Police stated that Morris suffered from comorbidities, sustained injuries while resisting arrest, and died of injuries resulting from falling from a chair while in the hospital. Two autopsies both reported Morris suffered bleeding from internal organs, had multiple skull fractures, and died from blunt force trauma.

Police reported a second suspect, Joel Balcon, was also arrested within hours of Morris by SORT and taken to the same facility for interrogation. Police alleged Balcon sustained injuries while attempting to escape police custody. He was paralyzed, lapsed into a coma, and died eight days later in the hospital. An autopsy report stated Balcon suffered multiple skull fractures and died due to multiple blunt force traumas to the body.

In February the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and the Professional Standards Bureau launched investigations into the deaths of Balcon and Morris. In October the PCA completed its investigation and concluded that Balcon and Morris were subjected to torture and acts of violence that led to their deaths. The case was referred to Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, who at the end of the year was reviewing PCA findings and had not determined whether to file charges.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

Although the law prohibits such practices, there were reports that police officers and prison guards sometimes used excessive force.

On April 20, SORT commander Mark Hernandez was charged with misconduct in public office for his role in the beating of a third suspect in Andrea Bharatt’s killing (see section 1.a.).

In August, seven prisoners at the Wayne Jackson Building, a maximum-security prison also known as Building 13, filed a lawsuit against the government claiming they had been dragged from their cells and beaten by masked police, soldiers, and prison officers. The prisons commissioner stated the incident was precipitated by rebellious prisoners who refused to comply during a search and who had been waging a series of provocations with guards to attempt to dissuade crackdowns on contraband. Injured prisoners were treated at the prison’s infirmary, and one was transferred to a hospital for treatment.

In a separate incident in November, prisoners at Building 13 alleged that prison officers beat, threatened, and abused prisoners in response to two killings within three days of off-duty prison officers who worked at Building 13. Although the deaths took place outside the prison, prison officials alleged that inmates coordinated the killings through external gang contacts and threatened to kill 13 more prison officers before Christmas.

Despite government steps to punish security force members and other officials charged with unlawful killings or other abuses, open-ended investigations and the generally slow pace of criminal judicial proceedings created a climate of impunity.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements, and the courts addressed one reported case.

On May 5, a man was awarded 980,000 Trinidadian dollars ($144,000) in compensation because he was forced to serve his entire sentence for drug trafficking and was prevented by prison officers while incarcerated from filing a legal challenge to his conviction. He eventually appealed and successfully overturned his conviction, but not until after serving his full term. The judge denounced the misconduct of prison officials and cited it as the reason for awarding damages for breaches of constitutional rights, deprivation of liberty, and vindicatory damages.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Police may arrest a person based on a warrant issued or authorized by a magistrate, or without a warrant if an officer witnesses the commission of an offense. Detainees must be charged and appear in court within 48 hours, and the government respected this standard. There was a functioning bail system, and bail was ordinarily available for those accused of most crimes. Persons accused of murder, treason, piracy, kidnapping for ransom, or hijacking, as well as persons convicted twice of violent crimes, are ordinarily ineligible for bail for 120 days. Authorities granted detainees immediate access to a lawyer.

The minister of national security may authorize preventive detention to protect public safety, public order, or national defense. The minister must state the grounds for the detention.

In September 2020 the government amended the law to allow courts to use electronic monitoring devices as a condition of bail, probation, or community service. In March a landmark court order was made for the first use of the new electronic monitoring system. All parties to the proceedings appeared virtually, and the applicant was granted bail, conditional on being fitted with an electronic monitoring device.

Pretrial Detention: Lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. Pretrial detainees constituted more than two-thirds of the prison population. Most detainees’ trials began seven to 10 years after their arrest, although some spent even longer in pretrial detention. The length of pretrial detention frequently equaled or exceeded the maximum sentence for the alleged crime. Officials cited several reasons for the backlog, including the burden of the preliminary inquiry process. The law requires anyone charged and detained to appear in person for a hearing before a magistrate every 10 days, even if only to have the case postponed for an additional 10 days. This increased the caseload and created further inefficiency.

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future