Country Report on Terrorism 2017 - Chapter 1 - Trinidad and Tobago

Overview: In November 2017, the Trinidad and Tobago National Security Council approved a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy. The strategy document focuses on deterring people from participating in or supporting terrorism, enhancing national counterterrorism operational capabilities, and building national resilience in the event of an attack. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago continued its broad counterterrorism cooperation with the United States, which included information sharing. In April, the Governments of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States signed a Memorandum of Intent to provide for the installation of the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) at certain points of entry in Trinidad and Tobago. Preparations for the PISCES installation were ongoing at the end of 2017.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has stated that approximately 135 people, including women and minors, have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria and Iraq to fight with ISIS in the past few years. The threat from the possible return of foreign terrorist fighters remains a primary concern.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In February, the government proposed a bill to amend its existing Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA):

  • To criminalize terrorism-related actions both within Trinidad and Tobago and outside the country, the support of terrorism, or joining a terrorist organization or training with one;
  • To require citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to give notice of travel to conflict areas; and
  • To freeze the assets of those who commit a terrorist act, among other changes. The legislation lapsed before approval at the end of the last parliament session in September 2017, but the current government expects to reintroduce in 2018.

A lengthy judicial process can mean years before criminal prosecutions are resolved, and there has not been a conviction under the ATA to date. A number of new or amended laws and regulations to reform the criminal justice system, including codifying the practice of plea bargaining, improving access to bail, and new rules of criminal procedure, were adopted in 2017 to allow for more timely prosecutions.

In 2017, Trinidad and Tobago’s security agencies received increased counterterrorism training and equipment from the U.S. government. As a result, the government’s tactical ability to respond to terrorist threats increased significantly.

An interagency task force created in 2017 made progress in gathering terrorism-related intelligence and converting it into evidence that resulted in the designation of persons or entities involved in terrorism under the ATA. A committee was also created to examine issues relating to children and terrorism. Law enforcement agencies and the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force continue to face resource constraints, however.

In August 2017, pursuant to a proposal by Trinidad and Tobago, Shane Crawford, a Trinidad and Tobago national, was added to the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida Sanctions List. Since November 2015, approximately 350 individuals and entities, including six with a nexus to Trinidad and Tobago, have been designated under the ATA and a small amount of assets have been frozen. Trinidad and Tobago has also requested that other jurisdictions list certain nationals with a nexus to Trinidad and Tobago under their respective domestic regimes, where appropriate.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and the Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the Egmont Group. Following its last FATF mutual evaluation in 2015, Trinidad and Tobago took a number of steps to address the anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) deficiencies identified in the evaluation. The FIU has increased the size of its analytical staff, enhanced its outreach to stakeholders regarding AML/CFT obligations, and participated in the Egmont Group ISIL project, among other steps. Nonetheless, in October 2017, FATF placed Trinidad and Tobago on its list of jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT regimes, and will continue to review Trinidad and Tobago’s progress under its FATF action plan. With respect to CFT, the FATF-identified deficiencies relate to the need to implement its counterterrorism strategy and address the gaps identified in the ATA. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has not developed a national CVE strategy, although the counterterrorism strategy adopted in November 2017 includes some elements. Much progress has been through programs that address violence and gang prevention at large, which the government sees as a higher priority than terrorist recruitment. One such program is the creation of Police Youth Clubs, where local police engage with at-risk youth after school within their communities. These community engagements assist in addressing youth marginalization and isolation while curbing negative perceptions of law enforcement within at-risk communities.

In March, the city of Chaguanas joined the Strong Cities Network. Other cities, such as Rio Claro and San Fernando, have been eager to work with the United States to implement CVE programs within their communities.

International and Regional Cooperation: As a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the lead country with responsibility for crime and security, Trinidad and Tobago is working with other CARICOM member states to develop a regional counterterrorism strategy.