Trinidad and Tobago
Overview: The threat from ISIS sympathizers 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 continue to cooperate on counterterrorism investigations involving Trinidad and Tobago nationals. The Trinidad and Tobago Cabinet approved a policy to address the return and reintegration of its FTFs. The policy has yet to be implemented and may require an amendment to the existing Trinidad and Tobago Antiterrorism Act.
2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no terrorism incidents reported in Trinidad and Tobago in 2021.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Trinidad and Tobago’s counterterrorism institutions continue to face challenges related to staffing, funding, and coordination. There were no arrests or prosecutions initiated against any terrorist groups or individuals suspected of terrorist activity in 2021.
The government is undertaking reforms, including the introduction of plea bargaining and judge-only trials, aimed at speeding up the lengthy judicial process. These developments may lead to increased prosecutions of serious crimes, including terrorism.
The Antiterrorism Amendment Bill 2021, which would govern the return and reentry of Trinidad and Tobago’s FTFs, remained pending at the end of 2021. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago remains reticent to accept returning FTFs and their families, frequently citing the need to balance the needs of individuals and national security. During the reporting period, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago passed legislation to meet additional FATF requirements and a new evidence act that allows for the use of electronic evidence in court, including closed-circuit television footage.
The government continues to convene an interagency taskforce, known as Taskforce Nightingale (TFN), which is charged with developing recommendations related to the possible return of FTFs and others who have traveled to the Middle East and joined ISIS. The taskforce consists of various law enforcement, judicial, foreign affairs, defense force, and immigration and border protection officers. Separate from TFN, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s Interministerial Committee on Counterterrorism, tasked with implementing Trinidad and Tobago’s counterterrorism strategy, oversaw the development of the National Operations Fusion Center and the National Intelligence Fusion Center. The Operations and Intelligence Centers became functional in 2021 and are tasked with coordinating the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s counterterrorism operations. The government’s willingness to allocate an annual budget that supports the implementation of its counterterrorism strategy will determine its success.
Trinidad and Tobago’s institutions have 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 of Trinidad and Tobago conducts vulnerability assessments on important structures such as stadia, airports, and monuments periodically. Trinidad and Tobago continues to participate in the Advance Passenger Information system and maintains a national watchlist of persons of interest to national security, which can include persons suspected of engaging in terrorist activity. Nonetheless, Trinidad and Tobago’s southern border, which is approximately seven miles from the Venezuelan coast, remains porous and is vulnerable to drug and arms trafficking, human trafficking and smuggling, and illegal migration. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago continues to make positive strides on strengthening border security, including the commissioning of two new Cape-class patrol boats for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard during the reporting period.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, a FATF-style regional body. Trinidad and Tobago’s FIU is a member of the Egmont Group. The government continues to carry out its international obligations under UNSC and FATF regulations on combating terrorism and terrorist financing.
In March, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago undertook its second National Risk Assessment with technical assistance from the World Bank, which included a terrorist financing risk assessment. To date, under its Antiterrorism Act, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has designated 494 individuals and entities and frozen their assets. In 2021, Trinidad and Tobago also approved a national action plan to combat the illicit trade in consumer goods.
Countering Violent Extremism: While the Government of Trinidad and Tobago approved a policy to address the return and reintegration of its FTFs, implementation may require an amendment to the Trinidad and Tobago Antiterrorism Act. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago continues to partner with the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) to learn best practices in CVE. Trinidad and Tobago supported the ICSVE’s “Breaking the ISIS Brand in Trinidad” project, including a social media engagement program in July that reached more than 94,000 people living in areas where most Trinidadian and Tobagonian ISIS fighters originated.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is also a member of a CVE working group in Port of Spain, the International Partners’ Group, comprised of several diplomatic missions, including the United States, Canada, the EU, the UK, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the UN, to coordinate and collaborate on CVE efforts within the country.
International and Regional Cooperation: Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the of the OAS Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism. The government continues to work with its Caribbean Community partners on counterterrorism issues.
Trinidad and Tobago participated in the Second United Nations High-Level Conference of the Heads of Counterterrorism Agencies and Member States and the Seventh Review of the Global Counterterrorism strategy in June. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s Strategic Services Agency, its lead intelligence agency, hosted a virtual seminar on “Challenges and Opportunities on Countering Terrorism and Preventing Violent Extremism in the Caribbean Post COVID-19” in June for participants from local, regional, and international partners.