Nov 03, 2009 News
… 14-year-old torture victim
– criminal charges likely soon
By Dale Andrews
Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee is seeking the interdiction of the Divisional Commander of the police’s West Demerara Division, Assistant Commissioner Paulette Morrison, following revelations of torture at the Leonora Police Station.
The Minister was responding to questions from reporters at a press conference yesterday in the boardroom of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Assistant Commissioner Morrison is stationed at the Leonora Police Station and there are reports that she did not take appropriate action to safeguard the wellbeing of the prisoner who is a suspect in the murder of a former senior Region Three official.
Rohee said that in light of the incident he has discussed a certain course of action with Commissioner of Police Henry Greene.
“I can’t say whether the Commissioner of Police has taken action but I’ve given general and specific directions to the Commissioner of my wishes and what should happen in that Division,” the Home Affairs Minister told the media.
The tortured teenager is presently in the Burns Care Unit of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation after being taken there on Saturday, three days after the burns were inflicted by detectives who were interrogating him.
Two ranks at the Leonora Police Station have been placed under close arrest while investigators seek the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
To say that the Minister was shocked when he first saw the graphic photograph of the tortured teenager on the front page of the Kaieteur News is putting it mildly.
“My first reaction was, ‘did this happen?’ I had to ask myself that question. ‘did this really happen?’ and then I got on the phone to the police to inform me of the facts,” Rohee stated.
He acknowledged that it was the photograph in the newspaper that alerted him to what was going on.
Despite this, the minister rejected claims that there were attempts by police officials in the division to cover-up the incident.
“As regards the claim of an attempt to cover-up, the Ministry of Home Affairs’ rejection of this erroneous claim is based on the view that cover-ups betray the law itself. Indeed such actions only inspire conspiracies against the rule of law and undermines by deceit, public trust,” the Minister told reporters.
He dismissed as utter rubbish and a far cry from the truth, the claims of the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) that “the highest political authorities have justified covering up previous incidents of torture…” and that “ruling politicians have utilized crisis situations to encourage responses to equally unbounded cruelty”.
Rohee said that the Ministry of Home Affairs unequivocally rejects the use of excessive force as a means of extracting evidence from suspects.
According to the Minister, because nothing much has come out in terms of punishment for cops who commit excessive use of force, it should not be interpreted that members of the security have a carte blanche to do as they please.
“We are sending strong messages from our level that we don’t condone it and we speak publicly on these matters,” the Home Affairs Minister stated.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs wishes to make it clear that there are no Ayatollahs of torture within the PPP/C Administration,” he added.
He said that as far as the Ministry is concerned there are no sacred cows in the Guyana Police Force whether they are engaged in acts of impropriety, misconduct or wrongdoing.
Rohee said that from all indications the investigations into the murder of the former Regional Official were proceeding in the right direction.
However, the subsequent torture has clearly complicated the process, since the investigating ranks went to the outer limits of the permissible.
“From all indications they crossed the line to physical coercion and instead of applying psychological pressure to the suspect, third degree methods were used, which in today’s context constitutes an inexcusable wrongdoing,” Rohee said.
Following the exposure of the torture, a group of 25 attorneys at law took out a full-page advertisement, in which they made four specific demands.
The Minister said that his ministry has taken notice of the demands.
According to Rohee, in addition to possible charges against the investigating ranks, the establishment of an independent Commission of Inquiry into the three areas identified by the attorneys is a matter for consideration at the appropriate level.
In addition to the group of attorneys, the Guyana Bar Association, the Guyana Human Rights Association and several opposition political parties have condemned the act, which has also gained regional and international attention.
Even as the injured teen is recovering in hospital, Crime Chief, Seelall Persaud could not say if charges will be instituted against him for the murder of the former regional official.
Meanwhile, the police have transferred a female rank from the division to the ‘A’ Division Headquarters, Brickdam, on the suspicion that she facilitated the photograph that was published in the Kaieteur News.
The revelation of torture came at a time when the police were boasting about the decline of the murder rate in Guyana by 30 percent.
Meanwhile the Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) continued with investigations into the torture of prisoners by members of the Police Force.
According to a statement from the police, statements have been acquired from two additional victims, other than the teenaged victim, who claimed that they were beaten by police ranks during the same investigation.
Additionally, statements have been taken from 16 police ranks and two civilians.
Medical reports have been uplifted for two of the alleged victims and the investigations are proceeding apace.
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