“I can assure you that myself and the members who have been appointed are experienced lawyers, appointed by the Honourable Chief Justice, and we will perform our duties as per the Constitution,” Peterson told Newsday yesterday. “This is an independent and impartial tribunal and I give you my assurance that we will act accordingly.”
“The role of the tribunal is to review cases of people who have been detained in the emergency period under the emergency powers,” the senior counsel explained. “And we want to make ourselves accessible, in the event that our services are required, as soon as possible.”
Peterson, who is currently also the chairman of the disciplinary committee of the Law Association, was appointed by the Chief Justice on Wednesday.
The other members of the tribunal are members: Deborah Peake (an eminent senior counsel who has sat on many statutory bodies including the Integrity Commission; Elections and Boundaries Commission and the Trinidad and Tobago Securities and Exchange Commission), and Rajmanlal Joseph (also an attorney).
Newsday understands that the tribunal is due to hold an initial meeting today to formulate its regulations once its secretary is appointed. National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy was yesterday expected to designate a secretary for the tribunal, after consultation with the Public Service Commission. Peterson’s assurances came as attorney Subhas Panday wrote the tribunal urging it to hold meetings at south Trinidad, amid reports of persons being detained under specific provisions of the Emergency Powers Regulations 2011.
In a letter despatched yesterday, Panday implored Peterson to, “convene review
sittings of the tribunal in San Fernando in order to facilitate persons detained from Central and South Trinidad.”
“A number of my clients have been detained on allegedly very spurious grounds under the state of emergency and they wish to have their detention reviewed,” Panday said.
On Wednesday, Panday also filed for leave to serve a writ of habeus corpus on the Police Commission in relation to the incarceration of a 31-year-old client, Kassiedath Krishnanan, of San Fernando.
The application was yesterday granted by Justice Ricky Rahim and fixed for hearing today at the San Fernando High Court.
It has not been confirmed whether or not Krishnanan was detained under a specific detention order issued by the Minister of National Security or general emergency police powers.
The tribunal is set up under Section 11 of the Constitution which notes that in relation to any orders issued under emergency regulations or laws the tribunal shall review all cases of persons detained under those powers.
Section 11 (1) reads: “where any person who is lawfully detained by virtue of (emergency provisions) requests, at any time during the period of detention...his case shall be reviewed by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law and presided over by a person appointed by the Chief Justice from among the persons entitled to practice in Trinidad and Tobago.”
“(2) On any review by a tribunal, in pursuance of subsection (1) of the case of any detained person, the tribunal may make recommendations concerning the necessity or expediency of continuing his detention to the authority by whom it was ordered but, unless otherwise provided by law, that authority shall not be obliged to act in accordance with such recommendations.”
Further, the Emergency Powers Regulations 2011, issued on Sunday by President George Maxwell-Richards as he declared a state of emergency, sets out provisions relating to the Tribunal.
The Regulation 17 and the Second Schedule of the regulations empower the Minister of National Security to make special orders for any person to be detained.
Section 2(1) of the Second Schedule stipulates that the minister may make an order of detention, “if satisfied with respect to any person that, with a view to preventing him acting in any manner prejudicial to public safety or public order of the defence of Trinidad and Tobago, it is necessary to provide for his preventative detention.”
Every detention order must be published in the Gazette. The minister, under the regulations, may authorise a person subject to a detention order to be arrested without warrant and detained “in such place and under such conditions as the minister may from time to time direct.” A person arrested under a detention order must be served a copy of the order–stipulating the reasons for his/her detention–“as soon as practicable”. Such a person must also be advised of their right to an attorney and to have legal representation before the tribunal.
If a person asks the tribunal to review their detention, such a request triggers action on the part of the minister.
Within seven days, the minister must give his reasons for the detention to the tribunal which is free to regulate its own procedures, including the degree of confidentiality it is to maintain over its proceedings. In this potentially sensitive process, the minister must act “with due regard being had to the public interest.”
Upon receipt of the grounds of detention, the tribunal must consider the grounds and report back to the minister. It is empowered to convene proceedings to: hear any person having communication to make before the tribunal; put any question to any person before the tribunal; invite the minister to submit further information and to consider anything submitted before it.
The tribunal is to regulate its own proceedings, using the precedents set by previous tribunals established during emergency periods.