An SoE: What the Constitution says


Police officers stop and search a pedestrian on Frederick Street, Port of Spain on Saturday. Instances like this are expected to increase in the coming days. – SUREASH CHOLAI

States of emergency are covered under Sections 7-12 of the Constitution. These “periods of public emergency” are one of the exceptions to the fundamental human rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution. The major points of Sections 7-12 are:

During a period of public emergency, the President may make regulations and issue orders and instructions for the purpose of dealing with that situation.

These may include making provision for detaining people.

The President’s declaration must say that he or she is satisfied that a public emergency has arisen because of the imminence of a war between TT and a foreign state; natural disasters such as flood, fire, earthquake, other calamity or, as in the present case, “outbreak of pestilence or of infectious disease”; or that action is being taken on such a scale or of such a nature as to endanger the public safety or deprive all or much of the public of goods or services essential to life.

Within three days of the proclamation, the President must deliver to the Speaker of the House of Representatives a statement setting out the specific grounds for the proclamation.

A date must then be fixed for Parliament to debate the statement, as soon as practicable and within 15 days of the proclamation.

Unless revoked earlier, the President’s proclamation will remain in force for 15 days.

Before it expires, the proclamation of the state of emergency may be extended by a simple majority vote of the House of Representatives. The extension must not exceed three months and overall the extensions must not exceed six months. The proclamation may be further extended from time to time, though not for more than three months at a time, by a resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament, and by no fewer than three-fifths of the members of each House. A simple majority vote of the House of Representatives may revoke the proclamation of the SoE at any time.

Anyone lawfully detained under any act or regulation relating to the SoE may have his or her case reviewed during that detention or within six months of his or her requesting such a review. The review is to be done by an independent tribunal appointed by the Chief Justice and consisting of attorneys qualified to practise in TT. The tribunal may make recommendations to the authority which ordered the detention, but the authority is not obliged to follow those recommendations on whether or not to continue the detention.

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