We do have rights
The Second World War taught a lesson to just about every country. One lesson was that there will always be countries with aggressive intentions and that these needed to be controlled by the global community. This aggression is also prevalent among individuals many of whom compete for and become national leaders. These people also need to be controlled.
These aggressive people and nations led to the formation of the United Nations. In 1948, the United Nations adopted what has now become known as the Universal Declarations of Human Rights. This list of rights should be adopted by every country that is a signatory to the Human Rights convention. Simply put, people the world over should enjoy the same rights and privileges.
Guyana is a signatory to these rights. It has vowed to ensure that its citizens enjoy these rights to the extent that its constitution, the supreme law of the land, has entrenched these rights. Article Nine of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no person shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest detention or exile.
This is crucial. Many countries that profess to be democratic insist that one of the greatest freedoms is the freedom of liberty. The French have a famous slogan—Give me liberty or give me death. The United States has a Statue of Liberty which is a symbol to the rest of the world. This statue stands at the entrance to the Hudson River and welcomes all.
The world cannot help but notice that one of the last things police officers do, for the greater part, is to arrest someone. Arrests come as a last resort. But there are countries where an arrest is the first resort. Then follows what may be considered unreasonable detention.
Such detentions are commonplace in countries once considered communist, which is a title synonymous with being totalitarian. But in the Caribbean, and Guyana is not excluded, detention and arbitrary arrests are not unusual. One can understand an arrest once the law enforcement officers have reasonable suspicion.
But all too often we have seen arrests and detentions that have been sparked by an angry policeman who wants to flaunt his power; we have seen people arrested on the complaint of a neighbour who may merely have ready access to the police. And what makes this even more regular is the fact that the police have been led to believe that they can detain a person for up to seventy-two hours.
Sometimes, these people are released without any charge only to be picked up a few hours or days later, again on the whims and fancies of an exuberant police rank. The law does not tolerate this but many people, ignorant of the law and beaten by officialdom, simply accept their fate. They do not challenge their detention because they either do not know how to, or they do not have money to secure legal expertise. Some may not even know that they have the right to a legal challenge.
People have complained to the police hierarchy often to no avail. The very police believe that every person they take off the streets is making a dent on crime. So pervasive is this arbitrary detention that recently, when the former Police Commissioner Henry Greene, opted to challenge a charge that was being levelled against him, the wider society was up in arms when the decision came that the charge against the police commissioner was irrational.
The very people who should hug the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights were prepared to waive that clause. It may because of this action that there are so many human rights violation. People allow their rights to be violated because the irregularity becomes the norm.
We have had cases of people being arrested for no reason and actually being forgotten in detention. This violation of rights never caused the person making the arrest to lose sleep. He was safe in the knowledge that he would suffer no penalty.
Where there are laws there are monitors. One would expect the United Nations to have monitors to ensure that the signatories to the Charter are upholding the principles. We do not know that there is any monitoring in Guyana and it is not that we do not have violations.