Nov 07, 2008 News
The People’s National Congress Reform says that it will publish the names of army ranks implicated in the torture report should the President make good on his promise to not publish the names.
This is according to Vice Chairman of the party, Basil Williams, during a press briefing in a response to the contention by Head of State Bharrat Jagdeo.
Mr Williams’s statement comes on the heels of a sentiment made public by the leader of the Alliance for Change who said that to publish the report without the names of the men implicated would see the entire Guyana Defence Force being blamed for the allegations of torture against citizens and colleagues.
Williams yesterday also noted that the party was adamant about filing charges against the implicated ranks and he said that, “the perpetrators should also be reminded that they are individually answerable for their acts of torture, as illustrated in the conviction of Charles Taylor, Jr. of Liberia.”
President Jagdeo on Saturday last told media operatives that he would release the report without the names of the ranks, given that he was fearful that their faces would also be published and hence would be subject to discrimination.
He noted that it was probably that fear that prompted Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, to declare the previous Friday that it was very unlikely that the report would be released.
The President also reiterated what so many before him on the government side had said — that the men were not tortured, but were questioned aggressively.
In seeking to chronicle the events leading up to release of a sterilised report, Williams yesterday said that the PPP and the Jagdeo Administration appear to be in total confusion, as they continue their acts of deception over the torture report and its release to the public.
He noted that initially, the PPP/C resisted calls by the PNCR and others to have an independent investigation into credible allegations of torture against members of the Guyana Defence Force.
He then pointed out that some of the allegations were made by serving ranks of the GDF, who were able to identify the perpetrators of those horrible acts.
According to Williams, in an attempt to quell the persistent calls for an independent inquiry, the Jagdeo regime stated that an internal investigation would be conducted by the GDF.
“From the inception, the PNCR stated that the GDF could not investigate itself, since such an investigation would inevitably lead to irregularities and the resulting report would lack credibility…The Government, however, announced that an investigation team was appointed and had commenced its work.”
The party vice chairman added that following that nothing was heard of the so-called investigation until there was another public outcry and after some bungling and conflicting statements by the GDF and the government, the nation was informed that the Report was finally submitted to the Defence Board.
“There was then a protracted period when nothing was heard of this report. It took persistent queries again by the media and other organisations before the nation was advised that the Defence Board finally received and considered the mysterious Torture Report.”
According to Williams, the motives of the Government became evident when Dr. Luncheon, who is also secretary to the Defence Board, revealed that it was never the intention of the government to punish anyone found culpable in the torture investigation.
“Later, the Jagdeo PPP Administration refused to support the PNCR torture motion, in the National Assembly, which merely called upon the Government to honour its obligations under the International Convention on Torture….In that debate, it was evident that the Government of Guyana has approved and supported the use of torture, by the security forces, to the extent that the Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, described the horrible acts committed against Guyanese, by the GDF, as merely roughing up.”
Williams noted that despite the National Assembly debate, the Government failed to release the Torture Report and it took further public demands before another statement, on this matter, came from the Government.
“Dr. Luncheon, at a post Cabinet Press briefing, finally stated that the Report would not be released to the public….Within a day of Luncheon’s announcement, he was contradicted by President Jagdeo, who stated that the Report would be released, but only an edited version with the names of the perpetrators removed.”
He added that neither the original, nor the edited version, has yet been released and had the matter not been so serious, the ‘unsavoury saga’ of the Torture Report would qualify as farce and comedy rather than an example of a Government making a serious effort to respect the fundamental rights of the citizens of Guyana, as enshrined in and guaranteed by the Constitution.
According to Williams, the PPP/C and the Jagdeo regime are actively pursuing a propaganda campaign to persuade the public that members of the GDF did not torture our citizens but merely ‘roughed’ them up or interrogated them aggressively.
“These statements not only lack credibility but also are indicative of their contempt and disrespect for the people of Guyana.”
He noted that surely the unedited publication of the self-serving Torture Report would have enabled citizens to judge for themselves the nature of the acts committed by senior ranks of the GDF.
“However, the fact that the government is afraid to publish, even that censored and self-serving version, is an indication of how damning the original findings were….The Government propaganda cannot hide the fact that Patrick Sumner, Victor Jones and ranks of the GDF were tortured…Their injuries were displayed on the television screens in the homes of most of our citizens.
“These pictures and the statements by the victims tell the truth of their experiences and the PNCR will continue to rely on them, as evidence in the pursuit of these charges at the national and international levels.”
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