Trinidad and Tobago
Overview: The threat from ISIS supporters in Trinidad and Tobago and the possible return of individuals who traveled, or attempted to travel, to Syria or Iraq to fight with ISIS is the primary terrorism concern in the country.
Trinidad and Tobago and the United States cooperated on counterterrorism investigations involving Trinidad and Tobago nationals. In February the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Trinidad and Tobago from its “gray list” of countries with deficient anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CTF) regimes.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Trinidad and Tobago in 2020.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Trinidad and Tobago’s counterterrorism institutions faced challenges related to staffing, funding, and coordination. There were no arrests or prosecutions initiated against any terrorist groups or individuals suspected of terrorist activity during 2020. However, the government reported that there were several ongoing investigations under the Antiterrorism Act, including investigations for suspected terrorist financing. The country’s lengthy judicial process means that criminal prosecutions, including those related to terrorism, can take many years to be completed or otherwise resolved.
The government has undertaken reforms, including introducing plea bargaining and judge-only trials, aimed at speeding up the lengthy judicial process, which in the long term may lead to increased prosecutions of serious crimes — including terrorism.
The government passed the Interception of Communications (Amendment) Bill in June. The bill authorizes the interception of communications from prisons and prison transport vehicles and allows for intercepted information to be admitted as evidence in any legal proceedings. The new provisions also permit law enforcement officers to apply for warrants to obtain stored data from telecommunications service providers. The law applies to all criminal matters, including those that fall under the Antiterrorism Act.
The government continued to convene an interagency task force, known as Task Force Nightingale, which is charged with developing recommendations related to the possible return of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) and others who traveled to the Middle East in an attempt to join ISIS. The task force comprises various law enforcement, judicial, foreign affairs, defense force, and immigration and border protection officers. The government also established an interagency focus group in 2020 to develop the country’s national counterterrorism operations plan, which will guide the implementation of the national counterterrorism strategy that was adopted in 2018.
Trinidad and Tobago’s institutions demonstrated the capability to detect, deter, and prevent acts of terrorism with the assistance of international partners. The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service is the law enforcement agency with primary responsibility for investigating terrorism and terrorism-finance cases. The government conducted vulnerability assessments on important structures such as stadiums, airports, and monuments on a periodic basis. Trinidad and Tobago participates in the Advanced Passenger Information System and maintains a national watch list of persons of interest to national security, which can include persons suspected of engaging in terrorist activity. Nonetheless, the country’s southern border, which is approximately 10 miles from the Venezuelan coast, remained porous and vulnerable to illegal migration, drug trafficking, and human trafficking and smuggling.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the CFATF, a FATF-style regional body. The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of Trinidad and Tobago (known as FIUTT) is a member of the Egmont Group.
The government continued to implement international obligations under the UN Security Council Resolutions as well as FATF Recommendations on combating terrorism and terrorist financing. Trinidad and Tobago developed an action plan in 2017 to address deficiencies in its AML regime. In February, FATF removed Trinidad from the list of jurisdictions subject to increased monitoring (the FATF gray list). The country had been subject to heightened oversight since 2017.
From January through September, the government listed nine individuals and entities under the Antiterrorism Act and froze their assets. The listed individuals included Emraan Ali, a U.S. citizen born in Trinidad and Tobago, who was charged in U.S. federal court for providing and attempting to provide material support to ISIS.
The government passed legislation to increase the detection of money laundering and terrorist financing, notably the Miscellaneous Amendments Act of 2020, which increased penalties for businesses and financial institutions that fail to comply with high court orders or produce documents requested by the FIU.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service offers programs that promote alternatives to violent extremism for inmates who have been exposed to violent extremist beliefs or organizations.
Members of Task Force Nightingale and representatives of the Muslim community participated in a virtual exchange program organized by U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain that focused on repatriation and prosecution of FTFs and the rehabilitation and reintegration of their accompanying family members. Select leaders from the Muslim community and government participated in virtual programs with Homeboy Industries, the Islamic Center of Southern California, and the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation at the University of California, Los Angeles. The participants learned from program officers how to successfully reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals, gang members, and individuals who were radicalized to violence.
International and Regional Cooperation: Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the OAS-CICTE. The government continues to work with CARICOM partners on counterterrorism issues and received training from the Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) and the OAS on cyber intelligence in prisons and AML/CTF. The government hosted a CVE Working Group in Port of Spain consisting of several diplomatic missions, including the United States, Canada, the EU, the UK, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the United Nations, to coordinate and collaborate on CVE efforts within the country.
Trinidad and Tobago was scheduled to host a regional conference on counterterrorism and CVE in partnership with the UN Counterterrorism Committee and CARICOM. The conference was scheduled for March but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government participated in webinars on countering violent extremist ideologies organized by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. The country’s prison service maintained a close relationship with the U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain, the UK High Commission, CARICOM IMPACS, and the OAS on issues related to CVE, terrorism, and radicalization to violence.