Trinidad and Tobago

Data on Death Penalty:    Summary     /    Detailed

Number of Individuals Currently Under Sentence of Death: 50

Year of Last Known Execution: 1999

The Death Penalty in Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago is one of only a very few countries worldwide which still retains the mandatory death penalty for persons convicted of murder. It is the only country in the Caribbean to retain this mandatory penalty following the Caribbean Court of Justice ruling that the same penalty was unconstitutional in Barbados, in June 2018. The mandatory death penalty in Trinidad and Tobago is provided for in Section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1925 which states that ‘Every person convicted of murder shall suffer death.’ On independence in 1962, the mandatory death penalty for murder remained law.

Although the Privy Council has ruled that the mandatory death penalty for murder is unconstitutional (see more here), in Trinidad and Tobago the penalty is protected by a ‘savings clause’ at section 6 of the Constitution which states that: ‘Nothing in sections 4 or 5 [Recognition and Protection of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms] shall invalidate an existing law.’

‘Savings clauses’ were inserted into the constitutions of many former British colonies when they became independent; they were intended to provide continuity and reduce uncertainty in the transitionary period (see ‘Savings Clauses‘ section).

Therefore, although in 2003 the Privy Council held that the mandatory death sentence for murder infringed the constitutional right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, the ‘savings clause’ meant that the mandatory sentence could only be abolished by enacting a law.

In response to rulings such as these, Trinidad and Tobago have withdrawn from various conventions. In 1998, the government withdrew from the American Convention on Human Rights and in May of 1998 the country withdrew from the First Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The government then re-acceded to the ICCPR with a reservation on the right of individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee. Following a declaration of the Human Rights Committee that this was contrary to the object and purpose of the First Optional Protocol, Trinidad and Tobago again denounced the measure.

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