Teenage Torture Case…
The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) is calling for appropriate disciplinary action to be taken against all officers to the highest levels of the Guyana Police Force who participated in or attempted to cover-up, downplay or minimise the brutality of a 14- year-old torture victim.
The GHRA is of the view that the internal inquiry ordered by President Bharrat Jagdeo is a subterfuge: another example of the Government protecting those who torture.
“How can subordinates objectively investigate the actions of the Commissioner of Police in this matter– a legitimate part of the inquiry – much less recommend appropriate disciplinary action should this be found appropriate?” the GHRA said in a press release yesterday.
From all indications, senior officials knew about the teen’s torture which occurred three days before this newspaper published a photograph of the teen’s horrific injuries.
The GHRA is also taking the police doctor to task for what it described as his callous approach to his role as a professional.
“Statements contained in a Kaieteur News interview (04/11) with Police Surgeon Mahendra Chand concerning his treatment at Vreed-en-Hoop station of a 15-year-old boy tortured at the Leonora police divisional headquarters reveal a callous indifference beyond belief,” the GHRA stated.
According to the local human rights body, the manner in which the doctor conducted himself should lead to him immediately being relieved of his post in the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the equivalent post he holds with respect to the Guyana Prison Service.
The GHRA pointed to statements made by the doctor during the interview.
These included, “He said the teenager was brought from the lock-ups with his head concealed”; “His head was covered and I thought he was just another prisoner in a domestic matter who was brought in with injuries and the police were trying to conceal his identity.”; “I did not know who I was treating.”; “I did not know that the police had anything to do with the prisoner’s injuries.”; “At no time was he aware he was treating a juvenile.”; “Only after he saw the shocking news item in Kaieteur News he realised he had treated a torture victim.”
The GHRA said it has independently confirmed that during the entire examination, the juvenile’s head was covered by a cloth bag with a string to tighten the neck.
“Dr. Chand never asked the juvenile his name nor his age nor what had caused the terrible burns and scars on his body.
In fact, he never spoke to the juvenile at all. The only words the victim overhead the doctor saying to the police were: ‘This person needs to go to hospital,’” the GHRA statement pointed out.
There was no response from the policemen present but an ointment was afterwards given to the juvenile by the police who told him that the doctor had left it for him and that he should rub it on himself.
According to the GHRA, everything about Dr. Chand’s interview suggests that it is Dr. Chand’s normal practice to remain as ignorant as possible of what he is involved with, no doubt in order to avoid accusations of complicity in torture.
“Unfortunately, silence in this case really does suggest consent, which puts Dr. Chand morally in the dock with the other members of the GPF who bear varying degrees of responsibility for what occurred in Leonora police-station or its cover-up.”
The GHRA said that any claim that Dr. Chand was innocently rather than determinedly ignorant of what he was involved with is challenged by his apparent failure to ask even the most basic questions.
“Why he was examining a youth in police custody at that hour without the presence of parents? What caused the brutality sustained by the juvenile, apart from the burns? Why the head of the subject in front of him was bagged? What was the age, name and personal details of the severely injured and dehydrated subject in front of him? Where, when and how the severe burns and other marks were acquired?”
The GHRA stated that everything about the interview smacks of a business as usual approach, in which Dr. Chand hears no evil, sees no evil and says nothing.
Police Commissioner Henry Greene stated: “that from the information he received, the doctor had indicated that the prisoner was okay.”
According to the GHRA, if indeed this indifference to brutality is normal practice for the Police Surgeon, it goes some way to help the average citizen understand the otherwise inexplicable brutality of which police ranks are regularly accused.
“When the official medical representative to the police force is not outraged by such treatment why should police ranks act differently?”
The human rights body pointed out that Principle #2 of the Medical Principles applicable to persons in detention approved by the UN General Assembly Resolution 37/194 of 18 December 1982 states, “It is a gross contravention of medical ethics, as well as an offence under applicable international instruments for health personnel, particularly physicians to engage actively or passively in acts which constitute participation in, complicity in, incitement to or attempts to commit torture or other cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The GHRA is of the view that the actions that Dr. Chand took and those he failed to take constitute a dereliction of duty sufficient to meet the test of ‘passive complicity’ with torture.
The body further reminded the Guyana Government that having ratified the UN Torture Convention it is legally bound to act on this matter.
The GHRA is also calling on the Guyana Medical Council to investigate whether the gross breach of medical ethics, not to mention gross incompetence displayed in this incident warrants serious disciplinary action from the medical profession itself.
GHRA is also of the view that appointments of professionals to posts such as Police Surgeon and Prison Doctor should be made by and regularly rotated by the Medical Council rather than by the institutions or Ministries involved.
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