REPORT Nº 43/98
CASE 11.816
HANIFF HILAIRE
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
September 25, 1998
I.

BACKGROUND

1. By fax dated October 7, 1997, the London firm of solicitors, Simmons & Simmons,
presented a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter "the
Commission") against the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (hereinafter "the State" or
"Trinidad") on behalf of Mr. Haniff Hilaire, presently under sentence of death at the State
Prison in Port of Spain. The petition stated that the High Court of Trinidad at the Port of Spain
Assizes tried the Applicant for the murder of Mr. Alexander Jordan on February 13, 1991 along
with two co-defendants, Ms. Indravani Ramjattan and Mr. Denny Baptiste. The Applicant was
convicted on May 29, 1995 and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty for murder.
2. Simultaneous with the presentation of the complaint, the Applicant requested the
Commission to issue precautionary measures, pursuant to article 29(2) of its Regulations, and
to seek a stay of execution pending the determination of the complaint by the Commission. On
October 16, 1997, the Commission requested the State to stay Mr. Hilaire's execution "until
such time as the Commission has had the opportunity to consider this case and issue its
decision." The Commission requested "an immediate consent to the above request."
3. The State of Trinidad and Tobago did not respond to this request for precautionary
measures. The Commission regrets that the State party was not prepared to grant the
precautionary measures requested under article 29(2) of its Regulations, and to guarantee that
the Petitioner would not be executed while his case was under examination. In fact, however,
as of September 25, 1998, the petitioner has not been executed. The Commission observes
that it is not for the State party, but for the Commission, to decide whether or not a complaint
is admissible. The Commission requests the State to cooperate fully with the Commission's
examination of communications in the future.
II.

PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COMMISSION

4. Mr. Hilaire's appeal to the Court of Appeal of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago was
dismissed on November 7, 1996. On October 3, 1997, the Applicant's counsel in London
advised him that a petition for special leave to appeal to the Privy Council stood no reasonable
prospect of success. On November 6, 1997 the Applicant was refused leave to appeal to the
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
5. The complaint alleges that the following articles of the American Convention were violated
by the State of Trinidad and Tobago to the detriment of the Applicant: Articles 5, 7 and 8 of
the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter "the Convention" or "the American
Convention"). On December 19, 1997, a Supplementary Petition was filed on behalf of Mr.
Haniff Hilaire by Simmons & Simmons. Specifically, the petitioners allege serious violations as
regards the right to legal representation in a capital case. The petition alleges, inter alia, that
"the police fabricated evidence against the Victim [Hilaire]: the victim claims that he knew
nothing about the deceased, Alexander Jordan, until he was questioned by the police." In
addition, the petition alleges that Hilaire was "detained in custody as an accused person
awaiting trial for over 4 years, from 19 February 1991 until 09 May 1995, "in violation of his
right to be tried within a reasonable time." Further, the petition alleges that Hilaire had
inadequate time to prepare his defense, and that he was able "to see his attorney only for a
few minutes each day during the trial."
6. The State of Trinidad and Tobago responded to the petition by Note POL:6/16/2 Vol. 5 of
December 15, 1997. In this Note, the State informed the Commission that the "Instructions
Relating to Applications from Persons under Sentence of Death issued by the Government of

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