Minister’s statement extraordinary – GHRA
Following the remarks made by PPP/C Parliamentarian, Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud, that the allegations of torture were more or less the ‘roughing up’ of suspects, President of the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), Mike McCormack, has said that he finds the statement to be extraordinary.
McCormack stated that the technique used by the ranks from the Guyana Defence Force induced systematic beating and, according to him, this went way beyond ‘roughing up’ of the victims.
The head of the GHRA also pointed out that there was one allegation where the victims were actually injected with a chemical substance.
When questioned about the kind of investigation that was conducted into the torture allegation, McCormack said that he senses that there was a thorough internal investigation conducted, but pointed out that what actually happens to the report is a different matter.
“The length of time that this report is being kept from the public and the number of occasions when it was said that it will be presented, suggests that the report being produced is of little credibility,” McCormack noted.
However, he said that the GHRA cannot make any official pronouncement on the report, given the fact that its contents have not yet been made public.
“If it (report) makes no allegation of torture, then it’s responding to the information that was given to the officers that conducted the investigation. I can’t speak for the report, given that we haven’t seen it…But we do know first-hand what took place in Ayanganna.”
McCormack noted that what is troubling in the army is the fact that it seems as if the torture business is being spread like a virus.
In this regard, the GHRA has since approached the United Nations on the torture allegations and has requested the international body to engage the Guyana Government in further discussions on the recommendations that were made after Guyana’s report on torture was submitted.
Earlier this week the PPP/C rejected the main opposition party’s motion on torture, calling for evidence of the allegations while dismissing the motion as irrelevant and riddled with accusations.
Speaking about the much talked about torture report that was not released to the National Assembly as promised by the ruling party, Minister Persaud had said that there was no mention of torture, while emphasizing that police ranks are trained in basic human rights by the Guyana Human Rights Association.
Responding to allegations that there may be political directives allowing for the use of torture, he was adamant that no such order exists. “No one in the Joint Services is engaging in torture…We will not tolerate torture…It has no place in a civilized society.”
He added also that a person must assess the context of the motion, making reference to the post-2002 jailbreak and the reign of “organised” terror that followed, which saw the police themselves becoming targets.
In September 2007, more than a year ago, Patrick Sumner and Victor Jones, two residents of Buxton, were picked up by members of the Joint Services during one of their exercises.
They were taken away by these members of the Joint Services to Police Headquarters, Eve Leary, and Camp Ayanganna, after which they were locked up at Brickdam Police Station.
They were later whisked away to some point on the Soesdyke/Linden Highway, where they were allegedly tortured by members of the Joint Services.
At the time of the allegations, Jones and Sumner bore the scars of a brutal beating, which they claimed was carried out over the three days of their being in the custody of the disciplined services, following their detention after a raid in the village of Buxton in September last.
When the men were released from custody, they gave a harrowing account of their ordeal at the hands of the military.
They spoke of being taken all the way up the Soesdyke/Linden Highway, where they were threatened with death.
Another prominent report of torture came from Michael Dunn and Alvin Wilson, both GDF ranks. Both men appeared in sections of the media claiming that they were tortured over an AK-47 that disappeared late last year.
Last November, Wilson, who was in charge of the arms store, where guards would temporarily lodge their weapons, reported that an AK-47 was missing.
Since then, the Base Commander was moved from Camp Ayanganna and several ranks placed under investigation as the army scrambled to find the gun, which still remains missing.
Both Dunn and Wilson claimed in newspaper interviews of being kicked, pepper-sprayed and beaten by the army.
A reservist, Sharth Robertson, was also in custody, and relatives reportedly claimed that he, too, was tortured. The army had denied knowledge of the alleged tortures but said it would investigate them.
More recently there was another allegation by two youths of torture and robbery at the hands of soldiers stationed in the North West District.
In a subsequent press release issued by the Guyana Police Force, the GDF ranks who were allegedly involved in the incident denied assaulting and robbing two teenagers.
Kurt Wong, 16, and his friend Anthony, alleged that they were tortured by the soldiers who had invaded the merchant boat they were sleeping on, keeping watch.
Wong claimed that the men who were in civilian clothing carried machines guns and identified themselves as law enforcement officers.
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