Nov 02, 2008 Peeping Tom
Guyana is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on torture. It is also a signatory to other conventions, and it has entrenched in its constitution clauses that outlaw such activities as torture.
It is therefore with more than shock and not a small element of surprise that the Government has found that there are those who would want to accuse the Government of condoning torture. Some of those levelling the accusations have also presided over reports of torture, especially by members of the various paramilitary services back then. This happened in the days when the focus was on stifling the opposition.
Strange as it may seem, in every country there are reports of torture, but it does not mean that the governments sanction those acts. Indeed, where there are such reports, there are always investigations. Sometimes the perpetrators are prosecuted.
In Guyana, such allegations have become commonplace, and often they are made by people who seek to detract from the real reason they are being prosecuted. Sometimes they attack the very policemen who attempt to arrest them, and when the policemen retaliate the accused get their lawyers to report that they were beaten and tortured.
At issue now is the fact that some civilians and some members of the Guyana Defence Force have made allegations that they were brutally beaten and tortured. Indeed, some of them exhibited marks of violence consistent with a beating, and the Government ordered an investigation, which was comprehensive.
The Government initially decided that it would release the report, so that the public could be made aware of the findings. But, in the interim, the opposition political parties claimed to have received copies and would make these copies public if the Government fails to release its copy of the report.
Then the opposition took a motion to Parliament and set about accusing the Government of sanctioning torture. The debate was heated and lasted well into the wee hours of the next day. Indeed, copies were not presented in the National Assembly, because in that report are the names and identities of those against whom the allegations were made and the names of those making the allegations.
One does not need to delve into the history books to recognize that the publication of names and images of certain members of the disciplined services often led to the murder of these people. Taking this into consideration, the Government is having second thoughts about releasing the report.
Some suggest that the names of those involved be expunged, but if that is to happen, what is there to stop the critics from contending that other things have been expunged?
And now we examine the allegations. In the National Assembly, the press and the Parliamentary opposition made a lot about a remark by one of the Members on the Government side.
That Member, quoting the report, said that those making the allegations were “roughed up.”
Indeed, the report did speak of the men being roughed up, but stopped short of making a definition that roughing up was synonymous with torture. If the report does not go there, how can the Government go there to conclude that the men were indeed tortured?
The report also suggested that some of the injuries were self-inflicted, suggesting that some of the men hurt themselves as they attempted to escape from those conducting the interrogation. This also makes it difficult for the investigators to determine whether those injuries were related to any incidence of torture.
The Government does not, and will not, condone torture; and because of this, mounted the investigation into the allegations.
The previous Government never saw it fit to investigate such reports in the past, and for the opposition to talk about torture now is tantamount to double-speaking. It forces people to ask the question about the person making the claims of torture.
There are on record reports of the previous Government placing a known individual who was opposed to their policies into a helicopter and flying that person over the Atlantic Ocean with the threat of throwing that individual out of the helicopter. That was torture.
In another incident involving the investigation into the murder of four Corentyne schoolboys, the courts found evidence of torture when the police arrested a man and kept his wife in custody although she was in no way involved. The courts found that the detention of the woman was torture for the man, so that he could make a forced confession.
The Government is still studying the report, and it has made it clear that it would not condone torture. No one can blame the Government, because it simply does not have enough evidence to support any allegation of torture. What has happened is that people have been put on notice.
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