AMID concern over TT nationals who fought for ISIS, the United States government yesterday lamented that no one has been convicted locally under anti-terrorism laws. The US however, praised TT’s efforts at fresh laws against terrorism and beefing up security at ground level.
The US' concerns are contained in its State Department Country Reports on Terrorism 2017. Even before the abstract on TT, this country featured heavily in an Overview on the Western Hemisphere. “Foreign terrorist fighter travel from the Western Hemisphere to Iraq and Syria virtually stopped in 2017, as heightened awareness of the threat led to tightened border security.
“However, Canada and to a lesser extent the Caribbean – particularly Trinidad and Tobago – had previously been significant per capita sources of foreign terrorist fighters and the potential return of these trained individuals remains of great concern,” stated the report.
The report on TT noted TT/US co-operation, including agreeing to install a Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) at points of entry to TT. In November 2017, the National Security Council approved a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy to deter people from supporting terrorism, enhances counter-terrorism capabilities and builds national resilience in the event of an attack.
The report noted proposals to amend the existing Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), so as to criminalize terrorism-related actions, to require TT citizens to give notice of travel to conflict areas and to freeze the assets of those who commit a terrorist act. The legislation lapsed in September 2017, but was to be re-introduced this year.
“A lengthy judicial process can mean years before criminal prosecutions are resolved, and there has not been a conviction under the ATA to date (in TT).” The report expected more timely prosecutions from changes made in 2017 such as plea bargaining, easier access to bail and new rules of criminal procedure.
The report said TT has not adopted a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) strategy, but some elements arise in a counter-terrorism strategy adopted in November 2017. “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.