Despite the existence of the mandatory death sentence, the death penalty is used only rarely in Trinidad and Tobago.

According to Amnesty International (2016), nine new death sentences were recorded in 2015. Nine men were sentenced to death, six for the same crime, this represents a 22% increase from 2014; in total, 32 men were under sentence of death at the end of 2015 (Amnesty International, 2016).

Commutations, pardons or exonerations were also recorded in 2015.

Amnesty reported that in addition to Trinidad and Tobago, mandatory death sentences continued to be imposed in: Brunei Darussalam, Ghana, Iran, Jordan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore.

In the Americas, only Trinidad and Tobago and the United States imposed new death sentences in 2015.

At least two new death sentences were passed in 2014 (Amnesty International, 2015). In the previous Amnesty survey of death sentences globally, it was reported that at least 11 new sentences of death had been passed in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009 (Amnesty International, 2010). Amnesty also reported that in 2009, the government issued one death warrant, which was stayed by the courts.

Trinidad and Tobago have the second largest death row population in the Americas, after the US (Amnesty International, 2015).

Previous Executions

The last executions in Trinidad and Tobago were carried out in 1999.

Over four days in June 1999, Dole Chadee and eight of his associates (Joey Ramiah, Ramkalawan Singh, Joel Ramsingh, Russell Sankeralli, Bhagwandeen Singh, Clive Thomas, Robin Gopaul, and Stephen Eversley) were hanged for the murders of four members of the Baboolal family.

Later that year, on 28 of July 1999, Anthony Briggs was hanged for the murder of taxi driver Siewdath Ramkissoon.

Outside of these hangings in 1999, Glen Ashby was the only other person executed in the 1990s. Ashby was executed on 14 July 1994 (before his appeal was heard) for the murder of a BWIA pilot Khemraj Singh.

Amnesty International (1994) noted that ‘During the 1970s there were at least 24 executions in Trinidad and Tobago, 1974 being the worst year with 11 hangings.’

Although there is no centralised database provided by the state regarding persons executed in Trinidad and Tobago, the below are some of those who were hanged through the 1970s:

  • Bobby Gransaul was executed in 1979;
  • Stanley Abbott was executed in 1978 for the murder of Gale Ann Benson;
  • Michael X, otherwise known as Michael de Freitas or Michael Abdul Malik, was executed on 16 May 1975 for the murder of Joseph Skerritt;
  • Kissoon Ramnanan was executed on 13 September 1973 for the murder of Police Inspector Kenneth Cooke.

Trinidad and Tobago has not executed anyone for over 16 years. Despite retaining a mandatory death penalty therefore, Trinidad and Tobago is classified as abolitionist de facto rather than ‘actively retentionist’. Roger Hood and Carolyn Hoyle (2015) define as ‘actively retentionist’ countries which have carried out at least one execution in the previous 10 years. In countries that are abolitionist de facto, death sentences may be passed, but they have not resulted in execution.[1]

Leela Ramdeen, an attorney from Trinidad and Tobago who works with Greater Caribbean for Life, outlines the difficulties of the death penalty debate in an era of rising crime.

[1] According to Hood and Hoyle, the actively retentionist countries which still retain the mandatory death penalty for murder are: Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia (although there is some uncertainty), South Sudan (although again there is uncertainty), Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Abolitionist de facto countries which retain the mandatory death penalty for murder are: Barbados, Guinea, Guyana, Qatar, and Trinidad and Tobago.

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