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Set up domestic violence police unit

By JULIEN NEAVES Sunday, January 17 2016

FOLLOWING the murder of a 41 yearold mother of three from Central, despite a protection order and frequent reports to the police of threats and stalking, chairman of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence Diana Mahabir-Wyatt is calling for laws against harassment, a special police unit to deal with domestic violence and a human rights commission to be instituted.

Mahabir-Wyatt was responding to the murder of Hassina Khan who had gone missing last Tuesday and was found on Friday in a shallow grave in a lonely area in California, Couva.

A man who police picked up after Khan was reported missing is said to have confessed that he had killed the woman and subsequently led officers to the area where the grave was dug up and Khan’s body found.

On Friday, relatives screamed at police officers, accusing them of not taking numerous reports of assault and threats levelled at Khan, blaming lawmen for her death. The victim’s sister, Hanifah Khan, disclosed her sister had taken out a protection order against the suspect.

Khan had written a letter detailing the abuse, naming the relative, and asking that her children Felisha, 20, Brandon, 17, and five-year-old Gabriela been taken care of if ever harm befell her.

A C-News report last night said the relative is expected to be charged for Khan’s death.

Mahabir-Wyatt noted that with the protection order if the perpetrator breached it, which he apparently did, the police were supposed to have dealt with him. She said in this case the police had a lot of information and one of the officers had been named by the family. Mahabir-Wyatt said what happened in Khan’s case “is not unusual” in this country.

She noted in contrast that if the perpetrator had committed the same violence and threats against another man it would have been handled under the assault laws.

“Man against woman gives a clear picture of the real state of women in Trinidad,” she said.

Ma h a bi r -Wy a t t said unfortunately for many years reports to police about violence against women received the same treatment as those against children which is “not dealt with, not important”.

Mahabir-Wyatt said, in her position as president of the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights, that this country needs to establish a human rights commission and a special police unit to deal with domestic violence.

Asked about specific laws as it relates to stalking, she said this country does not have a law against harassment and other Caribbean countries are way ahead in this respect.

She noted there are laws against stalking in industrial relations where people going on strike are forbidden to stalk employers but people who are being stalked and then murdered “we do not have a law”.

Mahabir-Wyatt expressed hope that harassment and stalking will come up when the amendments are made to the Domestic Violence Act.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi yesterday said there are laws regarding threats and stalking and a “host of legislation” can be used both in criminal and civil law. Asked about Mahabir-Wyatt’s concerns about a lack of harassment legislation Al-Rawi responded that it is “vague” and he would need to find out exactly what she was referring to.

He said the issue is how is a situation enforced when there is an apparent real threat.

He noted this falls under the domain of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service on the enforcement of protection orders or orders issued by the High Court.

On Mahabir-Wyatt’s concerns about officers not treating these cases of violence against women as priority, Al-Rawi said it is critically important for a functional Police Service but “if we want accountability and performance we have to ensure the office holders are at least in place”.

On amendments to the Domestic Violence Act Al-Rawi said he was considering 137 pieces of legislation.

He said some legislation can be “cracked off” immediately while others required a lot of work. He cautioned, however, that if they implement legislation without being able to operationalise it then we will have “loads of laws on the books” which lie un-proclaimed and inoperative.

“We have to be real in delivering solutions,” he added.



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